Skip to main content

Full text of "The black death of 1348 and 1349"

See other formats

This is a digital copy of a book that was preserved for generations on library shelves before it was carefully scanned by Google as part of a project 
to make the world's books discoverable online. 

It has survived long enough for the copyright to expire and the book to enter the public domain. A public domain book is one that was never subject 
to copyright or whose legal copyright term has expired. Whether a book is in the public domain may vary country to country. Public domain books 
are our gateways to the past, representing a wealth of history, culture and knowledge that's often difficult to discover. 

Marks, notations and other marginalia present in the original volume will appear in this file - a reminder of this book's long journey from the 
publisher to a library and finally to you. 

Usage guidelines 

Google is proud to partner with libraries to digitize public domain materials and make them widely accessible. Public domain books belong to the 
public and we are merely their custodians. Nevertheless, this work is expensive, so in order to keep providing this resource, we have taken steps to 
prevent abuse by commercial parties, including placing technical restrictions on automated querying. 

We also ask that you: 

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Google Book Search for use by individuals, and we request that you use these files for 
personal, non-commercial purposes. 

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort to Google's system: If you are conducting research on machine 
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the 
use of public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help. 

+ Maintain attribution The Google "watermark" you see on each file is essential for informing people about this project and helping them find 
additional materials through Google Book Search. Please do not remove it. 

+ Keep it legal Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just 
because we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States, that the work is also in the public domain for users in other 
countries. Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of 
any specific book is allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Google Book Search means it can be used in any manner 
anywhere in the world. Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe. 

About Google Book Search 

Google's mission is to organize the world's information and to make it universally accessible and useful. Google Book Search helps readers 
discover the world's books while helping authors and publishers reach new audiences. You can search through the full text of this book on the web 

at |http : //books . google . com/ 



M D C C C C X 



Demy 8vo, 12s, net 

HENRY III. AND THE CHURCH. A Study of his Eccle- 
siastical Policy, and of the Relations between England and 

" It is writteD with no desire to defend the Papacir from the charges 
which were made even by the faithful at the time, and it may fairly claim 
to represent an unbiassed survey of the evidence. He has gone carefully 
through a large body of evidence which English historians have too much 
neglected, and that his investijgations serve rather to confirm than to upset 

fenerally received opinions, is, perhaps, addiiional reason for gratitude, 
lis book will be indispensable to the student of the reign of Henry ill.— 

Crown 8vo, 6s. net. 

gious Life and Thought of the English People in the Period 
ji — jjj^ Rejection of the Roman Junsdiction. Fourth 

" Dr. Gasquet has produced a book which will set many men thinking. 
He has done an excellent piece of work, and has offered to students of 
history a highly interesting problem. He writes as usual in a lucid and 
attractive style. The controversial element is so subordinated to the 
scholarly setting forth of simple facts and the adroit marshalling of evid- 
ence, that one might read the volume through without being tempted to 
ask what the author's creed is, or whether he has any, and when one gets 
to the end one is inclined to wish that there were a little more." — A tkemntm. 

Demy 8vo, 8f. 6^. net. 

" The work of Abbot Gasquet on the dissolution of the English Monas- 
teries is so well known and so widely appreciated that little may be said to 
commend a new and cheaper edition. The criticism of nearly twenty years 
has served only to show that the views, expressed by the author in the 
ori^nal edition, are shared bv every candid student <n the events of that 
period." — ScotHsh Historical Rtview. 

Crown 8vo. 


Contents.— I. The Last Abbot of Glastonbury. —11. English Biblical 
Criticism in the Thirteenth Century. — III. English Scholvship in the 
Thirteenth Century.— IV. Two Dinners at Wells ui the Fifteenth Century. 
—V. Some Troubles of a Catholic Family in Penal Times.— VI. Abbot 
Feckenham and Bath.— VII. Christian Familj Life in Pre-Reformadon 
Days.— VIII. Christian Democracv in Pre-Reiormation Times.— IX. The 
Layman in the Pre-Reformation Parish. — X. St. Gregory the Great and 






1348 AND 1349 











— LIB Si A" ' " 

rf^ 3 ■ ■■ 




THIS essay, published in 1893, ^^ ^^^S 
been out of print, and second-hand copies 
are difficult to procure, as they very rarely find 
their way into booksellers' catalogues. For this 
reason it has been thought well to reprint this 
account of the greatest plague that has probably 
ever devastated the world in historic times. Al- 
though the subject is necessarily of a doleful and 
melancholy character, it is of importance in the 
worlds history, both as the account of a universal 
catastrophe and in its far-reaching effects. 

Since the original publication of TAe Great 
Pestilence additional interest in the subject of 
bubonic plague has been aroused by the alarming 
mortality recently caused by it in India, and by 
the threatened outbreaks in various parts of 
Europe, where, however, the watchful care of the 
sanitary authorities has so far enabled them to 
deal with the sporadic cases which have appeared 
during the past few years, and to prevent the 
spread of the terrible scourge. ** 


From the researches made in India and else- 
where into the nature and causes of the disease, 
many new facts have been established which 
assist us to understand the story of the great 
epidemic of the fourteenth century, now commonly 
known as "The Black Death," which is related in 
some detail in these pages. The accounts of the 
ravages of the disease in India, which have ap- 
peared in the newspapers, are little less than 
appalling, and would probably have attracted 
more attention were it not for the fact that few 
Europeans have succumbed to a malady which 
has been so fatal to the natives of the country. 

The present bubonic plague in India assumed 
the nature of an epidemic in the Punjab in Octo- 
ber, 1897, and, in spite of the drastic precautions 
of the sanitary authorities, it so far seems to 
baffle their endeavours to stamp it out, notwith- 
standing all the resources of modern science 
which they possess. In April, 1907, a telegram 
from Simla announced that the total number of 
deaths from plague in India during the week 
ending April 13th was seventy-five thousand; all 
but five thousand of these having taken place in 
the United Provinces and the Punjab. At this 
time the total number of victims from the epi- 
demic in the Punjab alone, during the nine years 


it had existed, was estimated at about a million 
and a half. - 

So far as it can be traced, the origin of the 
Indian pls^e, as indeed that of the great pesti- 
lence of 1348-9, is China, the great breeding 
ground of epidemics. It is supposed to have been 
imported from Hong Kong to Bombay, and the 
disease had already made great headway before 
investigation established the fact that the infection 
was conveyed by means of the ships' rats. From 
January to August, 1903, the estimated mortality 
in India from plague was 600,000, and in 1904 
the total rose to the appalling figure of 938,000. 
Even this was exceeded in 1905; and it is stated 
that from 1897 ^^ ^9^4 the plague claimed three 
and a quarter millions of victims. 

The campaign against the plague-carrying rats 
has been waged with comparatively little result, 
owing, in great measure, to the religious suscepti- 
bilities of the native peoples, and their aversion 
to leaving their insanitary homes, leading ob- 
viously to concealment of infection. Moreover, 
the rat is regarded by the natives as somewhat of 
a domestic animal. Its destruction is thus resented 
and its facilities for spreading the disease greatly 
increased. Curiously enough it would appear that 
it has long been recognised by the native inhabit- 


ants of India that some connection did in fact 
exist between the rat and the bubonic plague. 
" When the rats begin to fall it is time for people 
to leave the houses," is an old and common 
saying in India; in which sentence was registered 
the popular belief that an outbreak of plague was 
preceded by a mortality among the rats. It is 
now certain that this connection does exist The 
special commission appointed in 1905 to examine 
into this matter has established, by a series of 
experiments, that bubonic plague is due to the 
rat-flea, called /ir^ cheopts, which not only carries 
the plague germ from rat to rat, but is almost 
certainly the means by which it is communicated 
to man. 

It may be taken for granted, as an established 
fact, that malarial diseases are produced by the 
bites of the mosquito, and that sleeping sickness 
follows from that of a blood-sucking fly which 
transmits to man the bacilli of the disease. In the 
same way it is now known that the plague is 
passed on from the infected rat through the 
agency of rat-fleas, which, when biting man, im- 
pregnate him with the bacillus of the deadly 
bubonic plague. It has even been suggested as 
by no means impossible that the plague may at 
any time be reintroduced into Europe by means 


of the rat parasite, and modern research has made 
it certain that want of cleanliness is a fertile cause 
of disease and its dissemination. In particular, it 
is proved that the fleas and bugs which exist in 
the poorer quarters of cities and villages may be 
the means of communication of many various 
forms of disease. 

As a suggestion to explain the rapid spread 
of "The Great Pestilence" of 1348-9, these re- 
sults of modern research are of interest and im- 
portance. The houses which sheltered the people 
in the fourteenth century were only too well cal- 
culated to assist the spread of the contagion, if it 
was carried, as now appears certain, by the agency 
of blood-sucking parasites. The account of French 
rural life at this period, given by M. Simeon Luce, 
and reproduced in Chapter III of this volume, is 
probably true, in the main, in regard to our own 
country, and the insanitary state and habitual 
dirt in which our ancestors lived, would have 
provided an ideal field for the indefinite multipli- 
cation of fleas, and possibly of other plague-bearing 

It remains to add that, with one or two minor 
corrections, and a few additions, the present 
volume is a reprint of the previous edition. 



Prbfacs to the Second Edition , . . . v 

To THE Reader xvii 

Introduction xix 


The Commencement of the Epidemic 

First reports as to the sickness — General account of 
the epidemic in eastern countries — The great trade routes 
between Asia and Europe — The plague in the Crimea — 
Tartar siege of Caffa — Origin of the name " Black Death " 
— Symptoms of the disease — Constantinople is attacked; 
account of the epidemic by the Emperor Cantacuzene — 
Genoese traders carry the infection to Sicily — Effect in 
Messina and Catania 1-17 


The Epidemic in Italy 

Date of the arrival of the infected ships at Genoa- 
Striking sameness in all accounts — De Mussi's account 
of the beginning of the plague in Italy, specially in Genoa 
and Piacenza — Boccaccio's description of it in Florence — 
This confirmed by the historian Villani — Progress of the 
disease in Italy — Pisa — Padua, Siena, etc. — Petrarch's 
letter on the epidemic at Parma — Venice and its doctors 
— Description of the desolation by Bohemian students 18-38 


Progress of the Plague in France 


Its arrival at Marseilles — A Parisian doctor's account 
of the epidemic at Montpellier — Avignon is attacked and 
suffers terribly — Contemporary account of its ravages by 
a Canon of the Low Countries — Gui de Chauliac, the 
Pope's physician — Spread of the infection in every direc- 
tion — William of Nargis' description of the mortality in 
Paris — Philip VI consults the medical faculty — Nor- 
mandy — Amiens — Account of Gilles Le Muisis, Abbot 
of Tournay — M. Simeon Luce on the conditions of popu- 
lar life in France in the fourteenth century — Agrarian 
troubles follow the epidemic 39-^5 


The Plague in Other European Countries 

From Sicily the pestilence is carried to the Balearic 
islands — Majorca — The scourge in Spain — The shores 
of the Adriatic are visited — From Venice the wave passes 
into Austria and Hungary — It passes over the Alps into 
the Tyrol and Switzerland — Account of a Notary of 
Novara — From Avignon the epidemic is carried up the 
Rhone Valley to the Lake of Geneva — It visits Lucerne 
and Engelberg — Account of its ravages at Vienna — It 
goes from Basle up the valley of the Rhine — Frankfort 
— Bremen — From Flanders it passes into Holland — Den- 
mark, Norway, and Sweden — Account of Wisby on the 
Island of Gotland — Labour difficulties consequent upon 
the epidemic 66-80 


The Plague Reaches England 


Jersey and Guernsey are attacked — First rumours of 
the epidemic in England — It is brought to Melcombe 
Regis in Dorsetshire — Discussion as to the date— Diffi- 
culty in dealing with figures in Middle Ages — Value of 
episcopal registers in giving institutions of beneficed 
clergy — Evidence of Patent Rolls — Institutions in Dor- 
setshire — Letter of the Bishop of Bath and Wells — 
Difficulty of obtaining clergy — Institutions in Somerset — 
Effect of the disease in the religious houses — Bristol — 
Evidence of the mortality in Devon and Cornwall — In- 
stitutions in the diocese of Exeter — Spread of mortality 
—Religious houses of the diocese . . . 81-105 


Progress op the Disease in London and 
THE South 

Rapidity of the spread of the epidemic — Date of its 
reaching London — The opening of new churchyards — 
Number of the dead in the capital — State of the city 
streets — Evidence of the wills of the Court of Hustings 
at this period— Westminster and other religious houses — 
St. Albans — Institutions of clergy for Hertfordshire — 
Evidence as to the counties of Bedford, Buckingham, 
and Berks — Special value of the Inquisitiones post mortem 
—State of various manors after the Plague — Institutions 
for the county of Bucks — The diocese of Canterbury — 
William Dene's account of the Rochester diocese — Diffi- 
culty in finding priests — ^The diocese of Winchester — 
Bishop Edyndon's letter on the pestilence — Date of the 
epidemic in Hampshire — Troubles about the burying of 
the dead — Institutions for Hants — Institutions for the 
county of Surrey — Little information about Sussex 106-134 



Th£ Epidemic in Gloucester, Worcester, 
Warwick, and Oxford 


Le Baker's account of the disease — Evidence of it in 
Wales — ^Account by Friar Clyn of the plague in Ireland 
— lostitutions for Worcester — New burial ground in the 
city — State of the county after the plague — Institutions 
in Warwickshire — The city and county of Oxford — Effect 
on the University 135-148 


Story of the Disease in the Rest of England 

Dr. Jessopp's account of Norfolk and Suffolk — Institu- 
tions in the diocese of Norwich — Evidence of the Court 
rolls — Norwich and its population — Yarmouth — The 
diocese of Ely — Preparations by the bishop— Institutions 
in the diocese — Cambridge — Decay of parishes con- 
sequent upon the mortality — Straits of the clergy — Himt- 
ingdon — Institutions in the county of Nprthampton — 
Effect on religious house of the county — Fall in the value 
of land — Leicestershire — Knighton upon the plague in 
the city of Leicester — Fall in prices — Labour difficulties 
— Staffordshire — Institutions in the diocese of Hereford 
— Shropshire — Evidence of Inquisiiiones post-mortem — 
Chester — Accounts of the County Palatine — Derbyshire 
— Derby — Monasteries — Wakebridge and Drakelow — 
Nottinghamshire — Lincolnshire — Louth Park Abbey — 
Yorkshire — Archbishop Zouche — Vacant livings — 
Deaths among superiors of religious houses — Meaux 
abbey — Deanery of Holderness — Doncaster — Hull — 
Lancashire — Amounderhess — Westmoreland — Cumber- 
land — Carlisle — Durham — Northumberland — Alnwick 



The Desolation of the Country 


Vacant livings in diocese of Salisbury — In Dorset and 
Wilts — Ivychurch Priory — Manors mined by plague — 
Somerset parsonages — Court roil of Gillingham, Dorset 
— Stockton, Wilts — Chedzoy, Bridgwater — Carthusians 
of Hinton and Witham— Exeter diocese — Lydford — 
North Cornwall — The Black Prince and his tenants — 
Essex benefices — Lands vacant — Rents lowered — Col- 
chester wills — ^Talkeley Priory — Cheshunt nunnery — 
Anglesey Priory — Kent— Sussex — Hants— Isle of Wight 
— Surrey — Winchester Cathedral Priory — Hyde Abbey — 
Nuns of St. Mary's Abbey — of Romsey — Decrease among 
the mendicant friars of Winchester diocese — Debts at 
the cathedral — At Christchurch — Sandown Hospital — 
Shirebome Priory — Hayling Island — Taxation — Glou- 
cester — Lantony Priory — Horsleigh cell — Warwickshire 
— Wappenbury — Whitchurch — Bruerne Abbey — St. 
Frideswide's at Oxford — Barlings .... 188-224 


Some Consequences of the Great Mortality 

Estimate of population of England in 1377, and 
before the great pestilence — Social revolution — Dearth 
of labourers and artisans — The tenantry swept off— Rise 
in prices — State efforts to depress the working classes — 
A third of the land falls out of cultivation — Leasehold 
farming — Serfdom declines — Popular rising of 138 1 prac- 
tically emancipates the labourer — Growth of large land- 
owners — English language spreads as French declines — 
— Effects on architecture — Great works left unfinished — 
Statistics of clerical mortality — Effects on the Church 
—Old traditions perished — Decline of public liturgical 




worship — Young and aged, and inexperienced persons 
ordained priests — Curious examples of this — Great falling 
off in number of candidates for ordination at Winchester, 
Ely, Hereford — Decline of the Universities — False views 
about the preponderance of regular clergy — After the 
Black Death their number relatively greater — Pluralities — 
Depopulation of monasteries — Instances cited — ^Wad- 
ding's^explanation of Franciscan decadence — ^The Black 
Death, a calamity sudden, overwhelming, and of wide- 
spread effect 235-355 


IN publishing this story of a great and over- 
whelming calamity, which fell upon England 
in common with the rest of Europe, in the middle 
of the fourteenth century, I desire to record my 
grateful thanks to those who have in any way 
assisted me in gathering together any material, or 
in weaving it into a connected narrative. Amongst 
these many kind friends I may specially name the 
late Mr. F. Bickley, of the British Museum; Mr. 
F. J. Baigent, the Rev. Prebendary Hingeston- 
Randolph, and, above all, Mr. Edmund Bishop, 
to whom I am greatly indebted for advice, 
criticism, and ever-patient assistance in revising 
the proof-sheets. 


THE story of the Great Pestilence of 1348-9 has 
never been fully told. In fact, until comparatively 
recent times, little attention was paid to an event which, 
nevertheless, whether viewed in the magnitude of the 
catastrophe, or in regard to its far-reaching results, is 
certainly one of the most important in the history of our 

Judged by the ordinary manuals, the middle of the 
fourteenth century appears as the time of England's 
greatest glory. Edward III was at the very height of 
his renown. The crushing defeat of France at Crecy, 
in 1346, followed the next year by the taking of Calais, 
had raised him to the height of his fame. When, wearing 
the laurels of the most brilliant victory of the age, he 
landed at Sandwich, on October 14th, 1347, the country, 
or at least the English courtiers, seemed intoxicated by 
the success of his arms. "A new sun," says the chronicler 
Walsingham, ** seemed to have arisen over the people, in 
the perfect peace, in the plenty of all things, and in the 
glory of such victories. There was hardly a woman of 
any name who did not possess spoils of Caen, Calais, 
and other French towns across the sea;" and the 
English matrons proudly decked themselves with the 



rich dresses and costly ornaments carried oflf from foreigpi 
households. This was, moreover, the golden era of 
chivalry, and here and there throughout the country 
tournaments celebrated with exceptional pomp the 
establishment of the Order of the Garter, instituted by 
King Edward to perpetuate the memory of his martial 
successes. It is little wonder, then, that the Great Pesti- 
lence, now known as the ** Black Death," coming as it 
does between Crecy and Poitiers, and at the very time 
of the creation of the first Knights of the Garter, should 
seem to fall aside from the general narrative as though 
something apart from, and not consonant with, the 
natural course of events. 

It is accordingly no matter for wonder that a classic 
like Hume, in common with our older writers on English 
history, should have dismissed the calamity in a few 
lines; but a reader may well feel surprise at finding that 
the late Mr. J. R. Green, who saw deeper into causes 
and effects than his predecessors, deals with the great 
epidemic in a scanty notice only as a mere episode in 
his account of the agricultural changes in the fourteenth 
century. Although he speaks generally of the death of 
one-half the population through the disease, he evi- 
dently has not realised the enormous effects, social 
and religious, which are directly traceable to the catas- 

Excellent articles, indeed, such as those from the pen 
of Professor Seebohm and Dr. Jessopp, and chance pages 
in books on political and social economy, like those of 
the late Professor Thorold Rogers and Dr. Cunningham, 
have done much in our time to draw attention to the 


importance of the subject Still, so far as I am aware, 
no writer has yet treated the plague as a whole, or, 
indeed, has utilised the material available for forming a 
fiadrly accurate estimate of its ravages. The collections 
for the present study had been entirely made when a 
book on the Epidemics in Britain^ by Dr. Crdghton, was. 
announced, and, as a consequence, the work was set 
aside. On the appearance of Dr. Creighton's volume, 
however, it was found that, whilst treating this pestilence 
at considerable length as a portion of his general sub- 
ject, not merely had it not entered into his design to 
utilise the great bulk of material to be found in the 
various records of the period, but the author had dealt 
with the matter from a wholly different point of view. 

It is proper, therefore, to state why a detailed treat- 
ment of a subject, in itself so uninviting, is here under- 
taken. The pestilence of 1348-9, for its own sake, must 
necessarily be treated by the professional writer as an 
item in the general series of epidemics; but there are 
many reasons why it has never been dealt with in detail 
from the mere point of view of the historian. Yet an 
adequate realisation of its effects is of the first import- 
ance for the right understanding of the history of Eng- 
land in the later Middle Ages. The "Black Death" 
inflicted what can only be called a wound deep in the ^ 
social body, and produced nothing less than a revolution 
of feeling and practice, especially of religious feeling 
and practice. Unless this is understood, from the very 
circumstances of the case, we shall go astray in our 
interpretation of the later history of England. In truth, 
this great pestilence was a turning-point in the national 


life. It formed the real close of the Mediaeval period 
and the beginning of our Modern age. It produced a 
break with the past, and was the dawn of a new era. 
The sudden sweeping away of the population and the 
consequent scarcity of labourers, raised, it is well recog- 
nised, new and extravagant expectations in the minds 
• of the lower classes; or, to use a modem expression, 

(; labour b^^an then to understand its value and assert 
its power. 

But there is another and yet more important result 
of the pestilence which, it would seem, is not sufficiently 
recognised. To most people, looking back into the past, 
the history of the Ch^r^h during the Middle Ages in 
England appears one continuous and stately progress. 
It is much nearer to the truth to say that in 1351 the 
whole ecclesiastical system was wholly disorganised, or, 
indeed, more than half ruined, and that everything had 
to be built up anew. As regards education, the effect of 
the catastrophe on the body of the clergy was pre- 
judicial beyond the power of calculation. To secure the 
most necessary public ministrations of the rites of re- 
ligion the most inadequately-prepared subjects had to 
be accepted, and even these could be obtained only in 
insufficient numbers. The immediate effect on the people 
was a religioUs paralysis. Instead of turning men to 
God the scourge turned them to despair, and this not 
only in England, but in all parts of Europe. Writers of 

^ every nation describe the same dissoluteness of manners 
consequent upon the epidemic. In time the religious 
sense and feeling revived, but in many respects it took 
a new tone, and its manifestations ran in new channels. 


If the change is to be described in brief, I should say 
that the religion of Englishmen, as it now manifested 
itself on the recovery of religion, and as it existed from 
that time to the Reformation, was characterised by a ^^ 
devotional and more self-reflective cast than previously. ^ 
This is evidenced in particular by the rise of a whole 
school of spiritual writers, the beginnings of which had 
been already manifested in the writings of Hampole, y 
himself a victim of the plague. It was subsequently 
developed by such writers as Walter Hilton and the ^^ 
authors of a mass of anonymous tracts, still in manu- 
script, which, in so far as they have attracted notice at 
all, have been commonly set down under the general 
designation of Wycliffite, The reason for this misleading 
classification is not difficult to understand. Finding on 
the one hand that these tracts are pervaded by a deeply 
religious spirit, and on the other being convinced that 
the religion of those days was little better than a mere 
formalism, the few persons who have hitherto paid 
attention to the subject have not hesitated to attribute 
them to the " religious revival of the Lollards," and were 
naturally unable to believe them to be inspired by the 
teaching of "a Church shrivelled into a self-seeking 
secular priesthood."^ The reader, who has a practical »/ 
and personal experience of the tone, spirit, and teaching 
of works of Catholic piety, will, however, at once recog- 
nise that these tracts are perfectly Catholic in tone, spirit, 
and doctrine, and differ essentially from those of men 
inspired by the teaching of Wycliffe. 
The new religious spirit found outward expression in 
* Green, Short History of the English People^ p. 216. 


the multitude of ^ilds which sprang into existence at 
this time, in the remarkable and almost, as it may seem 
to some, extravagant development of certain pious 
practices, in the singular spread of a more personal 
devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, to the Blessed Virgin, 
to the Five Wounds, to the Holy Name, and other such 
manifestations of a more tender or more familiar piety. 
Even the very adornment and enrichment of the churches, 
so distinctive of this period, bears witness to the change. 
At the close of the fourteenth century and during the 
course of the fifteenth the supply of ornanfeeiits, fur- 
niture, plate, statues painted or in highly decked '' coats," 
with which the churches were literally encumbered as 
time went on, proved a striking contrast to the compara- 
tive simplicity which characterised former days, as wit- 
nessed by a comparison of inventories. Moreover, the 
source of all this wealth and elaboration is another 
indication of the change that had come over the country. 
Benefactions to the Church are no longer contributed 
entirely, or at least chiefly, by the great nobles, but they 
are now the gifts of the burgher folk and middle classes, 
and this ;very profusion corresponds, according to the 
ideas and feelings of those days, to the abundant ma- 
terial comfort which from the early years of the last 
century to the present has specially characterised the 
English homes of modem times. In fact, the fifteenth 
century witnessed the beginnings of a great middle-class 
movement, which can be distinctly traced to the effect of 
the great pestilence, and which, whether for good or for 
evil, was checked by the change of religion in the six- 
teenth century. 


It is sufficient here to have indicated in the most 
general way the change which took place in the religious 
life of the English people and the new tendencies which 
manifested themselves. If the later religious history ot 
the country is to be understood it is necessary to take \ 
this catastrophe, social and religious, as a sorting-point, ! 
and to bring home to the mind the part the Black Death / 
really played in the national history. 

Merely to report what is said of England would tend 
to raise in the mind of the reader a certain incredulity. 
A short and rapid review has accordingly been made of 
the progress of the pestilence from Eastern Europe to 
these Western shores, and by this means the very dis- 
tressing unanimity, even to definite forms of language, of 
writers who recorded events hundreds and even thousands 
of miles apart, brings home the reality of the catastrophe 
with irresistible force. The story, so far as England is 
concerned, is told at greater length, and the progress of 
the disease is followed as it swept from south to north 
and passed on to higher latitudes. The state of the 
country after the pestilence was over is then briefly 
described, and attention is called to some of the imme- 
diate results of the great plague, especially as bearing 
upon the Church life of the country. 




THE Great Pestilence, which first reached Europe 
in the autumn of 1347, is said to have originated 
in the East some three or four years previously. So far 
as actual history goes, however, the progress of the 
disease can be traced only from the ports of the Black 
Sea and possibly from those of the Mediterranean, to 
which traders along the main roads of commerce with 
Asiatic countries brought their merchandise for con- 
veyance to the Western world. Reports at the time 
spoke of great earthquakes and other physical disturb- 
ances as having taken place in the far East, and these 
were said to have been accompanied by peculiar con- 
ditions of the atmosphere, and followed by a great 
mortality among the teeming populations of India and 
China. Pope Clement VI was informed that the pestil- 
ence then raging at Avignon had had its origin in the 
East, and that, in the countries included under that 
vague name, the infection had spread so rapidly, and 
had proved to be so deadly, that the victims were cal- 
culated at the enormous, and no doubt exaggerated, 
number of nearly four-and-twenty millions. 



A Prague chronicle speaks of the epidemic in the 
kingdoms of China, India, and Persia, and the con- 
temporary historian, Matteo Villani, reports its convey- 
ance to Europe by Italian traders, who had fled before 
it from the ports on the eastern shores of the Black Sea. 
The same authority corroborates, by the testimony of 
one who had been an eye-witness in Asia, the reports 
of certain Genoese merchants as to earthquakes de- 
vastating the continent and pestilential fogs covering 
the land. " A venerable friar minor of Florence, now a 
bishop, declared," so says Villani, " that he was then in 
that part of the country at the city of Lamech, where by 
the violence of the shock part of the temple of Mahomet 
was thrown down." ^ 

A quotation from decker's " Epidemics of the Middle 
Ages " will be a sufficient summary of what was reported 
of the plague in eastern countries before its arrival in 
Europe. " Cairo lost daily, when the plague was r^ng 
with its greatest violence, from lo to 15,000, being as 
many as, in modem times, great plagues have carried off 
during their whole course. In China more than thirteen 
millions are said to have died,and this is in correspondence 
with the certainly exaggerated accounts from the rest 
of Asia. I ndia was depopulated. Tartary, Mesopotamia, 
Syria, Armenia were covered with dead bodies; the 
Kurds fled in vain to the mountains. In Caramania and 
Caesarea none were left alive. On the roads, in the 
camps, in the caravansaries unburied bodies were alone 
to be seen. ... In Aleppo 500 died daily; 22,000 people 
and most of the animals were carried off in Gaza within 
six weeks. Cyprus lost almost all its inhabitants ; and 
ships without crews were often seen in the Mediter- 
* Miiratori, Rerum Italicarum Scriptores^ xiv, col. 14. 


ranean, as afterwards in the North Sea, driving about 
and spreading the plague wherever they went ashore." ^ 
There can be little doubt that the contagion was first 
spread by means of the great trade routes of the East. 
The lines of commerce of European countries with India, 
China, and Asiatic countries generally are first definitely 
described in 1321 by Marino Sanudo, a Venetian, in a 
work addressed to Pope John XXI, not thirty years 
before the outbreak of the pestilence.' His object was 
to indicate the difficulties and dangers which then beset 
the traffic of the mercantile world with the East. In so 
doing he pointed out that the ancient centre of all trade 
with the far East was Bagdad. To and from this great 
depdt of Oriental merchandise all the caravan routes 
led; but, at the time when Sanudo wrote, the incursion 
of barbarian hordes into Central Asia had rendered 
trade along these roads difficult and unsafe. Two trading 
tracts are in particular named by the author as the chief 
lines of communication. One ran from Bagdad over the 
plains of Mesopotamia and Syria to Lycia,' where the 
goods were purchased by the Italian merchants. This, 
the best known route, was the shortest by which the 
produce of China and India could be conveyed to the 
European markets; but in the fourteenth century it was 
the most perilous. The second route also started from 
Bagdad, and having followed the Tigris to its sources in 
Armenia, passed on, either to Trebizond and other ports 

^ The Epidemics of the Middle Ages^ translated by B. G. Babington 
(Sydenham Society), p. 21. 

* Marinus SdJinXViSyLihersecretorumFideiium crucis super Terrae 
Sandeu recuperaiicne et conversatione^ in Bongars, Gesta Dei per 
Francos^ voL ii. 

' The most southern part of Asiatic Turkey. 


of the Black Sea, or taking the road from the Caspian, 
upon the other side of the Caucasus, passed to the 
Genoese and other flourishing Italian settlements in the 

A third route was, however, according to Sanudo, the 
most used in his day because the least dangerous. By 
it the produce of eastern lands was brought to Alex- 
andria, whence, after having been heavily taxed by the 
Sultan, it was transported to Europe. Merchandise 
coming to Italy and other countries by this route from 
India was, according to the same authority, shipped from 
two ports of the peninsula, which he calls Mahabar ^ and 
Cambeth.' Thence it was conveyed to ports in the Per- 
sian Gulf, to the river Tigris, or to Aden, at the entrance 
of the Red Sea. From this last point a journey of nine 
days across the desert brought the caravans to a city 
called Chus* on the Nile. Fifteen days more of river 
carriage, however, was required before the produce of 
the Eastern marts reached Cairo, or Babylon, as it was 
called by mediaeval writers. From Cairo it was con- 
veyed to Alexandria by canal. 

These were the three chief routes by which com- 
munication between Asiatic countries and Europe was 
kept up, and the markets of the Western world supplied 
with the spices, gums, and silks of the East. It is 
more than probable that the great pestilence was con- 
veyed to Europe by the trading caravans coming from 
the East by all these roads and by other similar lines of 

* Probably Mahe, on the Malabar coast. 

' Now Cambay, in the Baroda Dominion to the north of 

' Otherwise Kus, now Koos, in Upper Egypt, not far from < 
Thebes. ' 


commerce. In the country along one of the trade routes, 
by which caravans reached the Italian ports established 
on the Crimea, it is certain that the plague was raging 
with great virulence in 1346, the year before its appear- 
ance in Europe. Moreover, Gabriele de' Mussi, a notary 
of Piacenza, and an eye-witness of the first outbreak of 
the plague in Upper Italy, has described the way in 
which the infection was conveyed in the ships of traders 
from CafTa,' a Genoese settlement in the Crimea. This 
account will be found in the next chapter; and here it 
is only necessary to report what he gathered from the 
survivors about the outbreak of the plague among the 
Tartar tribes and its appearance at Cafla.' 

"In the year 1346," he writes, "in eastern parts an 
immense number of Tartars and Saracens fell victims to 

^ Sometimes known as S. Feodosia. This port was by the begin- 
ning of the fourteenth century a most important trading settlement 
of Genoese merchants. In 1316 Pope John XXII issued a Bull 
making it the cathedral city of an extensive diocese. By the time 
of the outbreak of the great plague it had become the centre of 
almost all commerce between Asia and Europe (Cf, M. G. Canale, 
Delia Crimea^ del suo commercio et dei suoi domincUoriy i, p. 208 
et seq, 

' The account of Gabriele de' Mussi, called Ystoria de marbo seu 
mortalitate qui fuit a. 1348, was first printed by Henschel, in 
Haeser's ArchivfUr gesammte Medicin (Jena), ii, 26-59. The editor 
claims that De' Mussi was actually present at Caffa during the 
Tartar siege, and came to Europe in the plague-stricken ships which 
conveyed the infection to Italy. Signor Tononi, who in 1884 re- 
printed the Ystoria in the Giomale Ligustico (Genoa), vol. x (1883), 
p. 139 seqq.y has proved by the acts of the notaries of Piacenza that 
De* Mussi never quitted the city at this time, and his realistic 
narrative must have been consequently derived from the accounts 
of others. From the same source Tononi has shown that De' Mussi 
acted as notary between A.D. 1300 and 1356, and was consequently 
bom probably somewhere about 1280. He died in the first half of 
the year 1356. 


a mysterious and sudden death. In these r^ons vast 
districts, numerous provinces, magnificent kingdoms, 
cities, castles, and villages, peopled by a great multi- 
tude, were suddenly attacked by the mortality, and in a 
brief space were depopulated. A place in the East called 
Tana, situated in a northerly direction from Con- 
stantinople and under the rule of the Tartars, to which 
Italian merchants much resorted, was besieged by a 
vast horde of Tartars and was in a short time taken." * 
The Christian merchants violently expelled from the 
city were then received for the protection of their per- 
sons and property within the walls of Caffa, which the 
Genoese had built in that country. 

''The Tartars followed these fugitive Italian mer- 
chants, and, surrounding the city of Caffa, besieged it 
likewise.* Completely encircled by this vast army of 
enemies, the inhabitants were hardly able to obtain the 
necessaries of life, and their only hope lay in the fleet 
which brought them provisions. Suddenly ' the death,' 
as it was called, broke out in the Tartar host, and 
thousands were daily carried off by the disease, as if 
' arrows from heaven were striking at them and beating 
down their pride.' 

" At first the Tartars were paralysed with fear at the 
ravages of the disease, and at the prospect that sooner 
or later all must fall victims to it Then they turned 
their vengeance on the besieged, and in the hope of 

^ Tana was the port on the north-western shore of the sea of 
Azov, which was then known as the sea of Tana. The port is now 

^ De* Mussi says the siege lasted '^ three years." Tononi shows 
that this is clearly a mistake, and adduces it as additional evidence 
that the author was not himself at Caffa. 


communicating the infection to their Christian enemies, 
by the aid of the engines of war, they projected the 
bodies of the dead over the walls into the city. The 
Christian defenders, however, held their ground, and 
committed as many of these plague-infected bodies as 
possible to the waters of the sea. 

" Soon, as might be supposed, the air became tainted 
and the wells of water poisoned, and in this way the 
disease spread so rapidly in the city that few of the 
inhabitants had strength sufficient to fly from it" ^ 

The further account of Gabriele de' Mussi describing 
how a ship from Cafia conveyed the infection to Genoa, 
from which it spread to other districts and cities of Italy, 
must be deferred to the next chapter. Here a short space 
may be usefully devoted to a consideration of the disease 
itself, which proved so destructive to human life in every 
European country in the years 1348- 13 50. And, in the 
first place, it may be well to state that the name Black 
Deaths by which the great pestilence is now generally 
known, not only in England, but elsewhere, is of com- 
paratively modem origin.^ In no contemporary account 
of the epidemic is it called by that ominous title; at the 
time people spoke of it as " the pestilence," " the great 
mortality," "the death," "the plague of Florence," etc., 
and, apparently, not until some centuries later was it 
given the name of " the Black Death." This it seems to 
have first received in Denmark or Sweden, although it 
is doubtful whether the atra mors of Pontanus is equi- 
valent to the English Black Deaths It is hard to resist 

' Gabriele de* Mussi, Ysioria de Morbo^ in Haeser, ut supra, 
^ K. Lechner, Deis grosse Sterben in Deuischland (Innsbriick, 
Wagner, 1884), p. 8. 
* J. J. Pontanus Rerum Danicarum Hisioria (1631), p. 476. 


the impression that in England, at least, it was used as 
the recognised name for the epidemic of 1349 only after 
the pestilence of the seventeenth century had assumed 
to itself the title of the Great Plague. Whether the 
name Black Death was first adopted to express the uni- 
versal state of mourning to which the disease reduced 
the people of all countries, or to mark the special 
characteristic symptoms of this epidemic, is, under the 
circumstances of its late origin, unimportant to de- 

The epidemic would appear to have been some form 
of the ordinary EUistern or bubonic plague. Together, 
however, with the usual characteristic marks of the com- 
mon plague, there were certain peculiar and very marked 
symptoms, which, although not universal, are recorded 
very generally in Europ>ean countries. 

In its common form the disease showed itself in swell- 
ings and carbuncles under the arm and in the groin. 
These were either few and large — being at times as 
large as a hen's egg — or smaller and distributed over the 
body of the sufferer. In this the disease does not appear 
to have been different from the ordinary bubonic plague, 
which ravaged Europe during many centuries, and which 
is perhaps best known in England as so destructive to 
human life in the great plague of London in 1665. In 
this ordinary form it still exists in Eastern countries, and 
its origin i6 commonly traced to the method of burying 
the dead there in vogue. 

The special symptoms characteristic of the plague of 
1348-9 were four in number: 

(i) Gangrenous inflammation of the throat and lungs; 

(2) Violent pains in the region of the chest; 

(3) The vomiting and spitting of blood ; and 


(4) The pestilential odour coming from the bodies and 
breath of the sick. 

In almost every detailed account by contemporary 
writers these characteristics are noted. And, although 
not all who were stricken with the disease manifested it 
in this special form, it is clear that, not only were many, / 
and indeed vast numbers, carried off by rapid corruption ! 
of the lungs and blood-spitting, without any signs of ^ 
swellings or carbuncles, but also that the disease was at 
the time regarded as most deadly and fatal in this 
special form. " From the carbuncles and glandular swell- 
ings," says a contemporary writer, "many recovered; 
from the blood-spitting none." * Matteo Villani, one of 
the most exact writers about this plague at Florence, 
says that the sick " who began to vomit blood quickly 
died ; " ^ whilst Gui de Chauliac, the Pope's physician at 
Avignon, who watched the course of the disease there 
and left the most valuable medical account of his obser- 
vations, says that the epidemic was of two kinds. The 
first was marked by " constant fever and blood-spitting, 
and from this the patient died in three days ; " the 
second was the well-known and less fatal bubonic 

The characteristic symptoms of this epidemic, noted 
in numerous contemporary accounts, appear to be iden- 
tical with those of the disease known as malignant pus- 

* Sec Lcchner, Das grosse Sterben^ p. 1 5. De' Mussi gives the 
same account. 

' ^ Chi cominciavano a sputare sangue, morivano chi di subito." 
The contemporary chronicle of Parma by the Dominican John de 
Comazano also notes the same : " Et fuit talis quod aliqui sani, si 
spuebant sanguinem, subito ibi moriebantur, nee erat ullum re- 
medium " {Monumenia hisiorica ad proTnncicu Partnensem et Pla- 
ceniinam pertinenHa^ vol. v, p. 386). 


tule of the lung; and it would appear probable that this 
outbreak of the plague must be distinguished from every 
other of which there is any record. " I express my pro- 
found conviction," writes an eminent French physician, 
** that the Black Death stands apart from all those which 
preceded or followed it. It ought to be classed among 
the great and new popular maladies." ^ 

Be that as it may, the disease, as will be subsequently 
seen in the accounts of those who lived at the time, 
' showed itself in various ways. Some were struck sud- 
denly, and died within a few hours ; others fell into a 
deep sleep, from which they could not be roused; whilst 
others, again, were racked with a sleepless fever, and 
tormented with a burning thirst. The usual course of 
the sickness, when it first made its appearance, was from 
three to five days; but towards the close of the epidemic 
the recovery of those suffering from the carbuncular 
swellings was extended, as in the case of ordinary East- 
em plague, over many months.^ 

^ Anglada, Efude sur Us Maladies Eteintes (Paris, 1869), p. 416. 
The idea that this peculiar malady was altogether novel in char- 
acter is confirmed by its specially malignant nature. According to 
a well-recognised law, new epidemics are always most violent and 
fatal. The depopulation of the Fiji Islands by the measles is an 
instance of the way in which a comparatively mild disease may in 
its first attack upon a people prove terribly destructive. It is com- 
monly thought that it has been the action of some new disease 
whereby the races which built the great prehistoric cities of Africa 
and America have been completely swept away. 

' The following account of an outbreak of disease somewhat 
similar to the " Black Death " appeared in the British Medical 
Journal oi 5 th November, 1892 : "An official report of the Governor- 
General of Turkestan, which has recently been published in St. 
Petersburg, states that that province has been severely visited by 
an epidemic of ' Black Death,' which followed upon the footsteps 


Such is a brief account of the disease which devastated 
the world in the middle of the fourteenth century. Be- 
fore following the course of the epidemic in Italy, to 
which it was conveyed, as De' Mussi relates, from the 
Crimea, some account of its ravages in Constantinople 
and in Sicily may be given. From the Crimea Constan- 
tinople lay upon the highway to the west. Italian ships 
crossing the Black Sea would naturally touch at this 
city, then the great centre of communication between 
the Eastern and Western Worlds. From the relation of 
De' Mussi it appears that Caffa, the plague-stricken 

of cholera. On September lo (22) it appeared suddenly at Askabad, 
and in six days it killed 1,303 persons in a population of 30,000. 
' Black Death ' has long been known in Western Asia as a scourge 
more deadly than the cholera or the plague. It comes suddenly, 
sweeping over a whole district like a pestilential simoon, striking 
down animals as well as men, and vanishes as suddenly as it came, 
before there is time to ascertain its nature or its mode of diffusion. 
The visit here referred to was no exception to this rule. After raging 
in Askabad for six days the epidemic ceased, leaving no trace of its 
presence but the corpses of its victims. These putrified so rapidly 
that no proper post-mortem could be made. The Governor- General 
gives some details as to the symptoms and course of the disease, 
which, though interesting as far as they go, do not throw much 
light on its pathology. The attack begins with rigors of intense 
severity, the patient shivering literally from head to foot ; the rigors 
occur every 6vt minutes for about an hour. Next an unendurable 
feeling of heat is complained of; the arteries become tense, and the 
pulse more and more rapid, while the temperature steadily rises. 
Unfortunately no thermometric readings or other precise data are 
given. Neither diarrhoea nor vomiting has been observed. Con- 
vulsions alternate with syncopal attacks, and the patients suffer 
intense pain. Suddenly the extremities become stiff and cold, and 
in from 10 to 20 minutes the patient sinks into a comatose condi- 
tion, which speedily ends in death. Immediately after he has ceased 
to breathe large black bulla form on the body, and quickly spread 
over its surface. Decomposition takes place in a few minutes.'' 


Genoese city in the Crimea, besieged by the Tartars, was 
in communication by ship with countries from which it 
received supplies. To Constantinople, therefore, it seems 
not unlikely that the dreaded disease was conveyed by 
a ship coming from this plague centre in the Crimea. An 
account of the pestilence at the Imperial city has come 
from the pen of the Emperor John Cantacuzene, who 
was an eye-witness of what he reports. And although 
he adopted the langus^e of Thucydides, about the 
pli^ue of Athens, to describe his own experiences at 
Constantinople, he could hardly have done so had the 
description not been fairly faithful to the reality. " The 
epidemic which then (1347) raged in northern Scythia," 
he writes, "traversed almost the entire sea-coasts, 
whence it was carried over the world. For it invaded 
not only Pontus, Thrace, and Macedonia, but Greece, 
Italy, the Islands, Egypt, Lybia, Judea, Syria, and 
almost the entire universe." 

The disease according to his account was incurable. 
Neither regularity of life nor bodily strength was any 
preservation against it. The strong and the weak were 
equally struck down; and death spared not those of 
whom care was taken, any more than the poor, destitute 
of all help. No other illness of any sort showed itself in 
this year; all sickness took the form of the prevalent 
disease. Medical science recognised that it was power- 
less before the foe. The course of the malady was not in 
all cases the same. Some people died suddenly, others 
during the course of a day, and some after but an hour's 
suffering. In the case of those who lingered for two or 
three days the attack commenced with a violent fever. 
Soon the poison mounted to the brain, and the sufferer 
lost the use of speech, became insensible to what was 


taking place about him, and appeared sunk in a deep 
sleep. If by chance he came to himself and tried to speak, 
his tongue refused to move, and only a few inarticulate 
sounds could be uttered, as the nerves had been para- 
lysed ; then he died suddenly. 

Others who fell sick under the disease were attacked 
first, not in the head, but in the lungs. The organs of 
respiration became quickly inflamed, sharp pains were 
experienced in the chest, blood was vomited, and the 
breath became fetid. The throat and tongue, burnt up 
by the excessive fever, became black and congested with 
blood. " Those who drank copiously experienced no more 
relief than those who drank but little." 

Then, after describing the terrible sleeplessness a d 
restlessness of some sufferers, and the plague spots which 
broke out over the body in most cases, the Emperor 
proceeds : " The few who recovered had no second attack, 
or at least not of a serious nature." Even some of those 
who manifested all the symptoms recovered against every 
expectation. It is certain that no efiicacious remedy has 
been discovered. What had been useful to one appeared 
a real poison to another. People who nursed the sick 
took their malady, and on this account the deaths multi- 
plied to such an extent that many houses remained 
deserted, after all who had lived in them — even the 
domestic animals — had been carried off by the plague. 

The profound discouragement of the sick was specially 
sad to behold. On the first symptoms of the attack men 
lost all hope of recovery, and gave themselves up as lost. 
This moral prostration quickly made them worse and 
accelerated the hour of their death. 

It is impossible in words to give an idea of this malady. 
All that can be said is that it had nothing in common 


with the ills to which man is naturally subject, and that 
it was a chastisement sent by God Himself. By this 
belief many turned to better thfngs and resolved to 
change their lives. I do not speak only of those who 
were swept away by the epidemic, but of those also who 
recovered and endeavoured to correct their vicious ten- 
dencies and devote themselves to the practice of virtue. 
A large number, too, before they were attacked dis- 
tributed their goods to the poor, and there were none so 
insensible or hard-hearted when attacked as not to show 
a profound sorrow for their faults so as to appear be- 
fore the judgment seat of God with the best chances 
of salvation. 

** Amongst the innumerable victims of the epidemic in 
Constantinople must be reckoned Andronicus, the Em- 
peror's son, who died the third day. This young man 
was not only remarkable for his personal appearance, 
but was endowed in the highest degree with those 
qualities which form the chief adornment of youth; and 
everything about him testified that he would have fol- 
lowed nobly in the footsteps of his ancestors." 

From Constantinople the Italian trading ships passed 
on towards their own country, ever)nvhere spreading the 
terrible contagion. Their destinations were Genoa and 
Venice, as De' Mussi relates; but as the same authority 
says: ''The sailors, as if accompanied by evil spirits, as 
soon as they approached the land, were death to those 
with whom they mingled" Thus the advent of the 
plague can be traced in the ports of the Adriatic in the 
autumn of 1347, and there can be little doubt that it was 
due to the arrival of ships bound from the East to Ven- 
ice. Of the islands of the ocean, and particularly of 
Sicily, De' Mussi speaks as having been affected by the 


ships that were bound from the Crimea to Genoa. Of the 
plague in Sicily there exists a particular account by one 
who must have been a contemporary of the events he 
describes.* " A most deadly pestilence/* he says, " sprang 
up over the entire island. It happened that in the month 
of October, in the year of our Lord, 1347, about the be- 
ginning of the month, twelve Genoese ships, flying from 
the divine vengeance which our Lord for their sins had 
sent upon them, put into the port of Messina, bringing 
with them such a sickness clinging to their very bones 
that, did anyone speak to them, he was directly struck 
with a mortal sickness from which there was no escape." 
After detailing the terrible symptoms and describing the 
rapid spread of the infection, how the mere breath of the 
strangers poisoned those who conversed with them, how 
to touch or meddle with anything that belonged to them 
was to contract the fatal malady, he continues: " Seeing 
what a calamity of sudden death had come to them by 
the arrival of the Genoese, the people of Messina drove 
them in all haste from their city and port. But the sick- 
ness remained and a terrible mortality ensued. The one 
thought in the mind of all was how to avoid the infec- 
tion. The father abandoned the sick son; magistrates 
and notaries refused to come and make the wills of the 
dying; even the priests to hear their confessions. The 
care of those stricken fell to the Friars Minor, the Dom- 
inicans and members of other orders, whose convents 
were in consequence soon emptied of their inhabitants. 
Corpses were abandoned in empty houses, and there 
was none to give them Christian burial. The houses of 
the dead were left open and unguarded with their jewels, 
money, and valuables ; if anyone wished to enter, there 
^ A Franciscan friar, Michael Platiensis (of Piazza). 


was no one to prevent him. The great pestilence came 
so suddenly that there was no time to organise any 
measures of protection; from the very beginning the 
officials were too few, and soon there were none. The 
population deserted the city in crowds; fearing even to 
stay in the environs, they camped out in the open air in 
the vineyards, whilst some mans^ed to put up at least a 
temporary shelter for their families. Others, again, 
trusting in the protection of the virgin, blessed Agatha, 
sought refuge in Catania, whither the Queen of Sicily 
had gone, and where she directed her son, Don Fred- 
erick, to join her. The Messinese, in the month of No- 
vember, persuaded the Patriarch ' Archbishop of Catania 
to allow the relics of the Saint to be taken to their city, 
but the people refused to permit them to leave their 
ancient resting-place. Processions and pilgrimages were 
organised to beg God's favour. Still the pestilence raged 
and with greater fury. Everyone was in too great a 
terror to aid his neighbour. Flight profited nothing, for 
the sickness, already contracted and clinging to the 
fugitives, was only carried wherever they sought refuge. 
Of those who fled some fell on the roads and dragged 
themselves to die in the fields, the woods, or the valleys. 
Those who reached Catania breathed their last in the 
hospitals. At the demand of the terrified populace the 
Patriarch forbade, under pain of excommunication, the 
burial of any of these Messina refugees within the city, 
and their bodies were all thrown into deep pits outside 
the walls. 

" What shall I say more? " adds the historian. " So 
wicked and timid were the Catanians that they refused 

^ The Archbishop was a member of the Order of St. Francis, and 
had been created Patriarch of Antioch. 


even to speak to any from Messina, or to have anything 
to do with them, but quickly fled at their approach. 
Had it not been for secret shelter afforded by some of 
their fellow citizens, resident in the town, the unfortunate 
refugees would have been left destitute of all human 
aid." The contagion, however, was already spread, and 
the plague soon became rife. The same scenes were 
enacted at Catania as before in Messina. The Patriarch, 
desiring to provide for the souls of the people, gave to 
the priests, even the youngest, all the faculties he him- 
self possessed, both episcopal and patriarchal, for ab- 
solving sins. "The pestilence raged in the city from 
October, 1347, to April, 1348, and the Patriarch himself, 
Gerard Otho, of the Order of St. Francis, fell a victim 
to his duty, and was one of the last to be carried off by 
the disease. Duke John, who had sought security by 
avoiding every infected house and person, died of the 
disease at the same time. The plague was spread in the 
same way from Messina throughout Sicily; Syracuse, 
Girgenti, Sciacca, andTrapani were successively attacked; 
in particular it raged in the district of Trapani, in the 
extreme west of the island, which," says the writer, " has 
remained almost without population." ^ 

Having briefly noticed the origin of the great pesti- 
lence which ravaged Europe in the fourteenth century, and 
its progress towards Italy, the story of Gabriele de' Mussi 
may again be taken up at the point where he describes 
the flight of the Genoese traders from the Crimea. The 
narrative has so far anticipated his account only by giving 
the history of the epidemic in Constantinople and Sicily. 

^ Gregorio (R.), Bibliotheca Scriptorum qui res in Sicilia gestas 
reiuUre^ torn, i, p. 562 seqq. The historian wrote probably not later 
than A.D. 1361. 




THE great sickness reached Italy in the early days 
of 1348. The report at Avignon at the time was 
that three plague-stricken vessels had put into the port 
of Genoa in January, whilst from another source it would 
appear that at the same time another ship brought the 
contagion from the East to Venice. From these two 
places the epidemic quickly spread over the entire 
country. What happened in the early days of this 
frightful scourge is best told in the actual words of 
Gabriele de' Mussi, who possessed special means of know- 
ledge, and who has until quite recently been looked 
upon, but incorrectly, as a passenger by one of the very 
vessels which brought the plague from the Crimea to 
Genoa. The history of the progress of the plague may 
be gathered from the pages of the detailed ^chronicles, 
which at that time recorded the principal events in the 
various large and prosperous cities of the Italian penin- 
sula, as well as from the well-known account of the straits 
to which Florence was reduced by the sickness, given 
in the introduction to the " Decameron " of Boccaccio. 

On reviewing in detail the testimonies from every land 
relating to this great calamity, it is impossible to over- 
look the sameness of the terms in which writers the 
most diverse in character, and in places far distant from 



one another, describe what passed before their eyes. It 
has already been remarked that the imperial historian, 
John Cantacuzene, in recounting the horrors of the 
plague in Constantinople, has borrowed from Thucy- 
dides. But the same ideas, the very same words, suggest 
themselves involuntarily to one and all. The simple 
monastic annalist of the half-buried cloister in Engel- 
berg, the more courtly chronicler of St. Denis, the 
notary who writes with the dryness and technicalities of 
his profession, but displays withal a weakness for rhet- 
oric and gossip, littircUeurs like Boccaccio, whose forte 
is narrative, or like Petrarch, delighting in a show of 
words, the business-like town chronicler of an Italian 
city, and the author who aspires to the rank of historian, 
the physician whose interest is professional, even the 
scribbler who takes this strange theme as the subject 
for his jingling verse, all speak with such complete one- 
ness of expression that it would almost seem that each 
had copied his neighbour, and that there is here a fine 
theme for the scientific amusement known as " investiga- 
tion of sources." It is only when we come to examine 
the whole body of evidence that there is borne in upon 
the mind a realisation of the nature of a calamity which, 
spreading everywhere, was everywhere the same in its 
horrors, becoming thus nothing less than a world-wide 
tragedy, and it is seen that even the phrases of the 
rhetorician can do no more than rise to the terrible 
reality of fact. 

First in importance, as well as in order of time, comes 
the testimony of De' Mussi, the substance of which is 
here given. It so happened that when the ships left 
Caffa — some bound for Genoa, some for Venice, and 
some to other parts of the Christian world — a few of 


the sailors were already infected by the fatal disease. 
One sick man was enough to infect the whole household, 
and the corpse as it was carried to the grave brought 
death to its bearers. ** Tell, O Sicily, and ye, the many 
islands of the sea, the judgments of God. Confess, O 
Genoa, what thou hast done, since we of Genoa and Venice 
are compelled to make God's chastisement manifest. 
Alas ! our ships enter the port, but of a thousand sailors 
hardly ten are spared. We reach our homes; our kin- 
dred and our neighbours come from all parts to visit us. 
Woe to us, for we cast at them the darts of death! 
Whilst we spoke to them, whilst they embraced us and 
kissed us, we scattered the poison from our lips. Going 
back to their homes, they in turn soon infected their 
whole families, who in three days succumbed, and were 
buried in one common grave. Priests and doctors visit- 
ing the sick returned from their duties ill, and soon were 
numbered with the dead. O, death ! cryel, bitter, impious 
death! which thus breaks the bonds of affection and di- 
vides father and mother, brother and sister, son and wife. 
Lamenting our misery, we feared to fly, yet we dared 
not remain." 

The terror increased when it was found that even 
the effects and clothes of the dead were capable of com- 
municating the disease. This was seen in the case 
of four soldiers at a place near Genoa. Returning 
to their camp they carried back with them a woollen 
bed-covering they had found in a house at Rivarolo, on 
the sea-coast, where the sickness had swept away the 
entire population. The night following the four slept 
under the coverlet, and in the morning all were found to 
be dead. At Genoa the plague spared hardly a seventh 
part of the population. At Venice it is said that more 


than seventy died out of every hundred, and out of four- 
and-twenty excellent doctors twenty were soon carried 
off by the sickness, 

*' But as an inhabitant I am asked to write more of 
Piacenza so that it may be known what happened there 
in the year 1348. Some Genoese who fled from the 
plague raging in their city betook themselves hither. 
They rested at Bobbio, and there sold the merchandise 
they had brought with them. The purchaser and their 
host, together with all his family and many neighbours, 
were quickly stricken with the sickness and died. One 
of these, wishing to make his will, called a notary, his 
confessor, and the necessary witnesses. The next day 
all these were buried together. So greatly did the 
calamity increase that nearly all the inhabitants of 
Bobhio soon fell a prey to the sickness, and there re- 
mained in the town only the dead. 

"In the spring of 1348 another Genoese infected with 
the plague came to Piacenza. He sought out his friend 
Fulchino della Croce, who took him into his house. 
Almost immediately afterwards he died, and the said 
Fulchino was also quickly carried off with his entire 
family and many of his neighbours. In a brief space the 
plague was rife throughout the city. I know not where to 
begin : everywhere there was weeping and mourning. So 
great was the mortality that men hardly dared to breathe. 
The dead were without number, and those who still lived 
gave themselves up as lost, and prepared for the tomb. 

"The cemeteries failing, it was necessary to dig 
trenches to receive the bodies of the dead. It frequently 
happened that a husband and wife, a father and son, a 
mother and daughter — nay, whole families — were cast 
together in the same pit. 


''It was the same in the neighbouring towns and 
villages. One Oberto di Sasso, who had come one day 
from an infected place to the church of the Friars 
Minor to make his will, called thither a notary, witnesses, 
and neighbours. All these, together with others, to the 
number of more than sixty, died within a short space of 
time. Also the religious man, Friar Sifredo de' Bardi, of 
the convent and order of Preachers, a man of prudence 
and great learning, who had visited our Lord's sepulchre, 
died with twenty-three other members of his order and 
convent. Also the learned and virtuous Friar Bertolin 
Coxadocha, of Piacenza, of the order of Minorites, with 
four-and-twenty members of his community, was carried 
off. So too of the convent of Augustinian Hermits — 
seven; of the Carmelites — seven; of the Servites of 
Mary — four, and more than sixty dignitaries and rectors 
of churches in the city and district of Piacenza died. Of 
nobles, too, many; of young people a vast number." 

De' Mussi then proceeds to give examples of the 
scenes daily passing before his eyes in the plague- 
stricken cities of northern Italy. The sick man lay lan- 
guishing alone in his house and no one came near him. 
Those most dear to him, regardless of the ties of kin- 
dred or affection, withdrew themselves to a distance; 
the doctor did not come to him, and even the priest with 
fear and trembling administered the Sacraments of the 
Church. Men and women, racked with the consuming 
fever, pleaded — but in vain — for a draught of water, and 
uselessly raved for someone to watch at their bedside. 
The father or the wife would not touch the corpse of 
child or husband to prepare it for the grave, or follow it 
thither. No prayer was said, nor solemn office sung, nor 
bell tolled for the funeral of even the noblest citizen ; 


but by day and night the corpses were borne to the 
common plague-pit without rite or ceremony. The doors 
of the houses now desolate and empty remained closed, 
and no one cared, nor, indeed, dared to enter. 

Such is the picture of the effect of the malady and the 
terrible mortality caused by it drawn by one who seems 
to have seen its first introduction into Italy, and who 
certainly had the best opportunity of early observing 
its rapid progress. It might, perhaps, be thought that 
his description of the horrors of the infected cities was 
over-coloured and the creation of his imagination. But 
in the details it bears on the surface the stamp of truth, 
and in its chief characteristics it is confirmed by too 
many independent witnesses in other parts of Italy, and 
even in Europe generally, to leave a doubt that it cor- 
responded to the literal reality. 

What happened at Florence is well-known through 
the graphic description of Boccaccio. So terrible was 
the mortality in that prosperous city that the very out- 
break became for a time known in Europe as the 
" Pestilence of Florence." In the spring of the previous 
year (1347) a severe famine had been experienced, and 
some 94,000 people had been in receipt of State relief, 
whilst about 4,000 are supposed to have perished of 
starvation in the city' and its neighbourhood. The 
people, enfeebled by previous hardships, would naturally 
fall a prey more easily to the poison of the epidemic. 
In April, 1348, the dreaded infection began to show 
itself. " To cure the malady," writes Boccaccio, " neither 
medical knowledge nor the power of drugs was of any 
avail, whether because the disease was in its own nature 

^ Sismondi, Histoire des Ripubliques ItcUiennes du Moyen Age^ 
vi, p. 1 1. 


mortal, or that the physicians (the number of whom — 
taking quacks and women pretenders into account — 
was grown very great) could form no just idea of the 
cause, nor consequently ground a true method of cure; 
of those attacked few or none escaped, but they gener- 
ally died the third day from the first appearance of the 
symptoms, without a fever or other form of illness mani- 
festing itself The disease was communicated by the 
sick to those in health and seemed daily to gain head 
and increase in violence, just as fire will do by casting 
fresh fuel on it The contagion was communicated not 
only by conversation with those sick, but also by ap- 
proaching them too closely, or even by merely handling 
their clothes or anything they had previously touched. 

" What I am going to relate is certainly marvellous, 
and,' had I not seen it with my own eyes, and were there 
not many witnesses to attest its truth besides myself, I 
should not venture to recount it, whatever the credit of 
persons who had informed me of it Such, I say, was the 
deadly character of the pestilential matter, that it passed 
the infection not only from man to man ; but, what is 
more wonderful, and has been often proved, anything 
belonging to those sick with the disease, if touched by 
any other creature, would certainly affect and even kill 
it in a short space of time. One instance of this kind I 
took special note of, namely, the rags of a poor man just 
dead having been thrown into the street, two hogs came 
by at the time and began to root amongst them, shaking 
them in their jaws. In less than an hour they fell down 
and died on the spot. 

" Strange were the devices resorted to by the survivors 
to secure their safety. Divers as were the means, there 
was one feature common to all, selfish and uncharitable 


as itwas — the avoidance of the sick, and of everything that 
had been near them ; men thought only of themselves. 

" Some held it was best to lead a temperate life and to 
avoid every excess. These making up parties together, 
and shutting themselves up from the rest of the world, 
ate and drank moderately of the best, diverting them- 
selves with music and such other entertainments as they 
might have at home, and never listening to news from 
without which might make them uneasy. Others main- 
tained that free living was a better preservative, and 
would gratify every passion and appetite. They would 
drink and revel incessantly in tavern after tavern, or in 
those private houses which, frequently found deserted 
by the owners, were therefore open to anyone; but they 
yet studiously avoided, with all their irregularity, coming 
near the infected. And such at that time was the public 
distress that the laws, human and divine, were not re- 
garded, for the officers to put them in force being 
either dead, sick, or without assistants, everyone did just 
as he pleased." 

Another class of people chose a middle course. They 
neither restricted themselves to the diet of the former 
nor gave way to the intemperance of the latter; but 
eating and drinking what their appetites required, they 
went about everywhere with scents and nosegays to 
smell at, since they looked upon the whole atmosphere 
as tainted with the effluvia arising from the dead bodies. 

"Others, again, of a more callous disposition, de- 
clared, as perhaps the safest course in the extremity, that 
the only remedy was in flight. Persuaded, therefore, of 
this, and thinking only of themselves, great numbers of 
men and women left the city, their goods, their house, 
and kindred, and fled into the country parts; as if the 


wrath .of God had been restricted to a visitation of those 
only within the city walls, and hence none should remain 
in the doomed place. 

" But different as were the courses pursued, the sick- 
ness fell upon all these classes without distinction; 
neither did all of any class die, nor did all escape; and 
they who first set the example of forsaking others now 
languished themselves where there was no one to take 
pity on them. I pass by the little regard that citizens 
and distant relations showed one to the other, for the 
terror was such that brother even fled from brother, wife 
from husband, nay, the parent from her own child. The 
sick could obtain help only from the few who still 
obeyed the law of charity, or from hired servants who 
demanded extravagant wages and were fit for little else 
than to hand what was asked for, and to note when the 
patient died. Even such paid helpers were scarce; and 
their desire of gain frequently cost them their lives. 
The rich passed out of this world without a single 
person to aid them ; few had the tears of friends at their 
departure. The corpse was attended to the grave only 
by fellows hired for the purpose, who would put the bier 
on their shoulders and hurry with it to the nearest 
church, where it was consigned to the tomb without any 
ceremony whatever, and wherever there was room. 

" With regard to the lower classes, and, indeed, in the 
case of many of the middle rank of life, the scenes 
enacted were sadder still. They fell sick by thousands, 
and, having no one whatever to attend them, most of 
them died. Some breathed their last in the streets, 
others shut up in their own houses, when the effluvia 
which came from their corpses was the first intimation 
of their deaths. An arrangement was now made for the 


neighbours, assisted by such bearers as they could get, 
to clear the houses, and every morning to lay the bodies 
of the dead at their doors. Thence the corpses were 
carried to the grave on a bier, two or three at a time. 
There was no one to follow, none to shed tears, for 
things had come to such a pass that men's lives were 
no more thought of than those of beasts. Even friends 
would laugh and make themselves merry, and women 
had learned to consider their own lives before every- 
thing else. 

" Consecrated ground no longer sufficed, and it became 
necessary to dig trenches, into which the bodies were 
put by hundreds, laid in rows as goods packed in a ship ; 
a little earth was cast upon each successive layer until 
the pits were filled to the top. The adjacent country 
presented the same picture as the city; the poor dis- 
tressed labourers and their families, without physicians, 
and without help, languished on the highways, in the fields, 
in their own cottages, dying like cattle rather than 
human beings. The country people, like the citizens, 
grew dissolute in their manners and careless of every- 
thing. They supposed that each day might be their last ; 
and they took no care nor thought how to improve their 
substance, or even to utilise it for present support. The 
flocks and herds, when driven from their homes, would 
wander unwatched through the forsaken harvest fields, 
and were left to return of their own accord, if they 
would, at the approach of night." 

Between March and the July following it was esti- 
mated that upwards of a hundred thousand souls had 
perished in the city alone. 

"What magnificent dwellings," the writer continues, 
*' what stately palaces, were then rendered desolate, even 


to the last inhabitant! How many noble families became 
extinct! What riches, what vast possessions were left 
with no known heir to inherit them ! What numbers of 
both sexes, in the prime and vigour of youth, whom in 
the morning Galen, Hippocrates, or iEsculapius himself, 
would have declared in perfect health, after dining 
heartily with their friends here, have supped with their 
departed friends in another world." * 

It might perhaps be suspected that this description of 
Boccaccio as to the terrible nature of the plague in 
Florence was either a fancy picture of his imagination or 
intended merely as a rhetorical introduction to the tales 
told in the Decameron^ with only a slender foundation 
of fact Unfortunately other authorities are forthcoming 
to confirm the graphic relation of the Florentine poet 
in all its details. Amongst others who were carried off 
by the pestilence in Florence was the renowned his- 
torian, Giovanni Villani. His work was taken up by his 
brother Matteo, who commences his annals with an 
account of the epidemic. So terrible did the destruction 
of human life appear to him that he tells his readers 
that no greater catastrophe had fallen on the world 
since the universal Deluge. According to his testimony, 
it involved the whole of the Italian peninsula, with the 
exception of Milan and some Alpine districts of northern 
Lombardy. In each place visited by the scoui^e it 
lasted five months, and everywhere Christian parents 
abandoned their children and kinsfolk, in as callous a 
way as " might perhaps be expected from infidels and 
savages." As regards Florence, whilst some few devoted 
themselves to the care of the sick, many fled from the 
plague-stricken city. The epidemic raged there from 
^ The Decameron^ Introduction. 


April till September, 1348, and it is the opinion of 
Villani that three out of every five persons in the city 
and neighbourhood fell victims to it. As to the effect of 
the scourge on the survivors, the historian records that 
whilst it would naturally have been expected that men, 
impressed by so terrible a chastisement, would have 
become better, the very contrary was the fact. Work 
too, was given over, and " men gave themselves up to 
the enjoyment of the worldly riches to which they had 
succeeded." Idleness, dissolute morals, sins of gluttony, 
banquets, revels in taverns, unbridled luxury, fickleness 
in dress and constant changes according to whim, such 
were the characteristic marks of the well-to-do Italian 
citizens when the plague had passed. And the poor, 
also, Villani states, became idle and unwilling to work, 
considering that when so many had been carried off by 
the pestilence there could not but be an abundance for 
those whom Providence had spared.^ 

The same story is told in all the contemporary chroni- 
cles of Italian cities. At Pisa the terrible mortality lasted 
till September, 1348, and there were few families that 
did not reckon two or three of their members among the 
dead. Many names are said to have been completely 
wiped off from the roll of the living. At least a hundred 
each week were carried to the grave in the city, whilst 
those who had been bold enough to watch at the death- 
bed of a relation or friend appealed in vain to passers- 
by to aid them to bury the corpse. " Help us to bear this 
body to the pit," they cried, "so that we in our turn may 
deserve to find some to carry us." The awful suddenness 
of the death often inflicted by the scourge is noted 
by the author of the Chronicle of Pisa in common with 
^ Muratori, Scriptores xiv, coll. 11 -15. 


nearly every writer of this period. Men who in the morn- 
ing were apparently well had before evening been carried 
to the grave.^ 

A Paduan chronicler, writing at the time, notes that 
one sick man as a rule infected the house in which he 
lay, so that once the sickness entered into a dwelling all 
were seized by it, "even the animals." To Padua a 
stranger brought the sickness, and in a brief space the 
whole city was suffering from it. Hardly a third of the 
population was left after the scourge had passed.* At 
Siena, according to Di Tura, a contemporary chronicler, 
the plague commenced in April and lasted till October, 
1348. All who could fled from the stricken city. In May, 
July, and August so many died that neither position 
nor money availed to procure porters to carry the dead 
to the public pits. "And I, Agniolo di Tura," writes 
this author, " carried with my own hands my five little 
sons to the pit; and what I did many others did like- 
wise." All expected death, and people generally said, 
and believed, that the end of the world had certainly 
come. In Siena and its neighbourhood, according to Di 
Tura, about 80,000 people were thought to have died in 
these seven months.' 

At Orvieto the plague began in May. Some 500 died 
in a very short space of time, many of them suddenly; 
the shops remained closed, and business and work was 

* Muratori, Scriptores^ xv, 102 1. * Ibid,^ xii, 926. 

' Ihid,^ XV, 123. At this period the population at Siena was more 
than 100,000, and it had been determined to proceed with the 
building of the vast Cathedral according to the designs of Lando 
Orefice. The work was hardly undertaken when the plague of 1348 
broke out in the city. The operations were suspended, and the 
money which had been collected for the purpose was devoted to 
necessary public works'' (G. Gigli, Diario Sanesty ii, 428). 


at a standstill. Here it ran its usual five months' course, 
and finished in September, when many families were 
found to have become extinct* At Rimini it was noticed 
that the poor were the first to be attacked and the chief 
sufferers. The sickness first showed itself on May iSth, 
1348, and only died out in the following December, 
when, according to the computation of the chronicler, 
two out of three of the inhabitants had been swept 

An anonymous contemporary Italian writer describes 
the sickness as a "swift and sharp fever, with blood- 
spitting, carbuncle or fistula." Only the few, he says, 
recovered when once stricken with the disease. The 
sick visibly infected with their corruption the healthy, 
even by talking with them ; for from this mere convers- 
ing with the sick an infinite number of men and women 
died and are buried. " And here," says the writer, " I 
can give my testimony. A certain man bled me, and the 
blood flowing touched his face. On that same day he was 
taken ill, and the next he died ; and by the mercy of 
God I have escaped. I note this because, as by mere 
communication with the sick the plague infected mortally 
the healthy, the father afterwards avoided his stricken 
son, the brother his brother, the wife her husband, and 
so in each case the man in health studiously avoided the 
sick. Priests and doctors even fled in fear from those ill, 
and all avoided the dead. In many places and houses 
when an inmate died the rest quickly, one after another, 
expired. And so great was the overwhelming number of 
the dead that it was necessary to open new cemeteries in 
every place. In Venice there were almost 100,000 dead, 
and so great was the multitude of corpses everywhere 
* Muratori, Scriptores^ xv, 653. * Ibid,^ 902. 


that few attended any funeral or dirge. . . . This pestil- 
ence did not cease in the land from February till the feast 
of All Saints (November ist, 1348), and the offices of the 
dead were chanted only by the voices of boys ; which 
boys, without learning, and by rote only, sang the office 
walking through the streets." The writer then notices 
the general dissoluteness which ensued after the disease, 
and its effect in lowering the standard of probity and 

To the terrible accounts given by De' Mussi of the 
state of plague-stricken Genoa and Piacenza, and that 
of Boccaccio, of the ravages of the pestilence in the city 
of Florence, may be well added the eloquent letters of 
the poet Petrarch, in which he laments the overwhelm- 
ing catastrophe, as he experienced it in the town of 
Parma. Here, as in so many other places, the inhabitants 
vainly endeavoured to prevent the entry of the disease 
by forbidding all intercourse with the suffering cities of 
Florence, Venice, Genoa, and Pisa. The measures taken 
to isolate Parma appear to have been, at least, for a time, 
successful, as the dreaded plague apparently did not 
make its appearance till the beginning of June, 1348.' 
But in the six months during which it lasted it desolated 
the entire neighbourhood. In Parma and Reggio many 
thousands, estimated roundly at 40,000, were carried oflF 
by it.' Petrarch was at this period a canon of the cathe- 
dral of Parma, and had made the acquaintance at Avig- 
non of Laura, who quickly became the object of his 
admiration as a typical Christian mother of a family, and 

^ Muratori, Scriptores^ xvi, 286. 

■ A. Pezzana, Storia delta cittd. di Parmay vol. i, p. 12. 
' Historiae Parmensis Fragtnenta^ in Muratori, ScHptores^ xii, 


as a fitting subject to inspire his poetic muse. Laura 
died at Avignon, one of the many who fell victims to 
the great pestilence which was then raging in that city. 
The letter written by a friend named Louis to inform 
Petrarch of this death found him at Parma on May 19th, 
1348.* A month later the poet wrote to Avignon in the 
most heart-broken language to his brother, a religious at 
M onrieux, and the only survivor of a convent of five-and- 
thirty." "My brother! my brother! my brother," he 
wrote. " A new beginning to a letter, though used by 
Marcus TuUius fourteen hundred years ago. Alas ! my 
beloved brother, what shall I say? How shall I begin? 
Whither shall I turn? On all sides is sorrow; every- 
where is fear. I would, my brother, that I had never 
been bom, or, at least, had died before these times. 
How will posterity believe that there has been a time 
when without the lightnings of heaven or the fires of 
earth, without wars or other visible slaughter, not this or 
that part of the earth, but well-nigh the whole globe, has 
remained without inhabitants. 

" When has any such thing been ever heard or seen ; 
in what annals has it ever been read that houses were 
left vacant, cities deserted, the country neglected, the 
fields too small for the dead, and a fearful and universal 
solitude over the whole earth? Consult your historians, 
they are silent; question your doctors, they are dumb; 
seek an answer from your philosophers, they shrug their 
shoulders and frown, and with their fingers to their 
lips bid you be silent. 

" Will posterity ever believe these things when we, who 
see, can scarcely credit them? We should think we were 

* T. Michelet, Histoire de France^ iv, p. 238. 
' A. Philippe, Histoire de la Peste Noire (Paris, 1853), p. 103. 



dreaming if we did not with our eyes, when we walk 
abroad, see the city in mourning with funerals, and re- 
turning to our home, find it empty, and thus know that 
what we lament is real. 

" Oh, happy people of the future, who have not known 
these miseries and perchance will class our testimony 
with the fables. We have, indeed, deserved these 
(punishments) and even greater; but our forefathers also 
have deserved them, and may our posterity not also 
merit the same." 

Then, after saying that the universal misery is enough 
to make one think that God has ceased to have a care 
for His creatures, and putting this thought aside as 
blasphemy, the writer continues: "But whatever the 
causes and however hidden, the effects are manifest To 
turn from public to private sorrows; the first part of the 
second year is passed since I returned to Italy. I do not 
ask you to look back any further; count these few days, 
and think what we were and what we are. Where are 
now our pleasant friends? Where the loved faces? 
Where their cheering words? Where their sweet and 
gentle conversation? We were surrounded by a crowd of 
intimates, now we are almost alone." 

Speaking of one special friend, Paganinus of Milan, 
Petrarch writes: " He was suddenly seized in the even- 
ing by the pestilential sickness. After supping with 
friends he spent some time in conversation with me, in 
the enjoyment of our common friendship and in talking 
over our affairs. He passed the night bravely in the last 
dgony,and in the morning was carried off by a swifl death. 
And, that no horror should be wanting, in three days his 
sons and all his family had followed him to the tomb." ^ 
* Epistolae Familiares (ed. 1601), lib. viii, pp. 290-303. 


In other towns of Italy the same tragedy, as told in 
the words of Boccaccio and Petrarch, was being enacted 
during the early spring and the summer months of 1348. 
At Venice, where the pestilence obtained an early foot- 
hold, and the position of which rendered it particularly 
susceptible to infection, the mortality was so great that 
it was represented by the round numbers of 100,000 

Signor Cecchetti's researches into the history of the 
medical faculty at Venice at this period furnish many 
interesting details as to the spread of the sickness. 
Although surgeons were not allowed by law to practise 
medicine, so great was the need during the prevalence 
of the dread mortality that one surgeon, Andrea di 
Padova, was allowed to have saved the lives of more 
than a hundred people by his timely assistance.' In the 
fourteenth century Venice was troubled by the plague 
some fifteen times, but that of 1348 was "the great 
epidemic" — "the horrible mortality"— to the chroni- 
clers of the time. For a long period after, public and 
other documents make it the excuse for all kinds of irre- 
gulariti^.^ The diplomas of merit bestowed upon 
doctors who remained faithful to their posts by the 
authorities of Venice speak of death following upon the 
first infection within a very short space of time. So de- 
fK)pulated was the city that it might be said no one was 
left in it Many doctors fled, others shut themselves in 
tlieir houses. Artisans and even youths undertook the 
duties of physicians, and helped numbers to recover.' 

1 Muratori, ScrtptoreSy xii, 926. 

* See his article La Medicina in Venena nel 1300 in Archivio 
V^netOy torn, xicv, p. 361, seqq, 

* P. 369. * Ibid., 377. ' Ibid. 


On Sunday, March 30th, 1348, the Great Council of 
Venice chose a commission of three to watch over the 
public safety. These a few days later ordered deep pits j 
to be made in one of the islands to receive the bodies of | 
those who died in the hospitals and of the poor; and to j 
convey them thither, ships were appointed to be always | 
in waiting. 

The rich fled from the place; officials could not be : 
found, and the Great Council was so reduced that the ! 
legal number for transacting business could not be got I 
together. Notaries died in great numbers, and the prisons 
were thrown open.^ When the epidemic had ceased the 
Senate had great difficulty in finding three doctors for 
the city. On January 12th, 1349, Marco Leon, a capable 
physician, and a native of Venice, who was in practice 
at Perugia, offered to return to his own city " since," as 
he says, " it has pleased God by the terrible mortality to 
leave our native place so destitute of upright and 
capable doctors that it may be said not one has been 
left." ' 

An instance of the mortality in Italy may be cited 
from the records of one religious Order. In 1347 the 
Olivetans made Blessed Bernard Ptolomey their Abbot 
General for life. In the following year, 1 348, the Order 
lost eighty, more than half its members, by the plague. 
Amongst those who perished was their new-made 
General.' j 

Details of a similar nature might be multiplied from , 

the contemporary Italian records. What has been here! 

^ Cecchetti,Z« Medidna in Venezia neliioo in Archivio Veneto^ 

torn. XXV, p. 378. I 

» Ibid, p. 379. i 

' S. Lancelloto, Historia Olivetana, p. 22. 


given, however, will enable the reader to form some 
estimate of the nature of the terrible disease and of the 
extent of the universal devastation of the Italian penin- 
sula. The annals relate that in every city, castle, and 
town death and desolation reigned supreme. In most 
places, as in Pisa, for example, law and order became 
things of the past; the administration of justice was 
impossible; criminals of every kind did what they best 
pleased,^ and for a considerable time after the plague 
had passed the Courts of Law were occupied in disputes 
over the possessions of the dead. When the wave of 
pestilence had rolled on to other lands there came in its 
wake famine and general distress in Italy, but strangely 
accompanied with the lavish expenditure of those who 
considered that, where so many had died, there should 
be enough and to spare of worldly goods for such as 
were left The land lay uncultivated and the harvest was 
unreaped. Provisions and other necessaries of life became 
dear. Markets ceased to be held, and cities and towns 
devoid of inhabitants were spectacles of decay and 
desolation. It is said, and there does not appear to be 
reason to doubt the statement, in view of the many con- 
temporary accounts of the disaster, that at least one half 
of the general population of Italy were swept away by 
the scourge. This relation of the horrors of the year 
1348 in Italy may be closed by the account left us of 
some students from Bohemia, who at this time journeyed 
back to their country from Bologna. 

"At this time," says a chronicle of Prague, "some 
students, coming from Bologna into Bohemia, saw that 
in most of the cities and castles they passed through few 

^ Roncioni, Istorie Pisane in Archivio Storico Itaiiano^ iv. 808. 


remained alive, and in some all were dead. In many 
houses also those who had escaped with their lives were 
so weakened by the sickness that one could not give 
another a draught of water, nor help him in any way, 
and so passed their time in great affliction and distress. 
Priests, too, ministering the sacraments, and doctors 
medicines, to the sick were infected by them and died, 
and so many passed out of this life without confession 
or the sacraments of the Church, as the priests were 
dead. There were generally made great, broad and deep 
pits in which the bodies of the dead were buried. In 
many places, too, the air was more infected and more 
deadly than poisoned food, from the corruption of the 
corpses, since there was no one left to bury them. Of 
the foresaid students, moreover, only one returned to 
Bohemia, and his companions all died on the journey." * 

* Chronicon Pragense^ ed. Loserth in Pontes rerumAustriacarum^ 
Scriptores^ vol. i, p. 395. 



ALMOST simultaneously with the outbreak of the 
pestilence in Italy it obtained a foothold in the 
South of France. According to a contemporary account, 
written at Avignon in 1348, the disease was brought 
into Marseilles by one of the three Genoese ships, which 
had been compelled to leave the port of Genoa when the 
inhabitants discovered that by their means the dreaded 
plague had already commenced its ravages in their city. 
It would consequently appear most likely that the mor- 
tality began in Marseilles somewhere about the first 
days of January, 1348, although one account places the 
commencement of the sickness as early as All Saints' 
Day (November i) 1347.^ The number of deaths in this 
great southern port of France fully equalled that of the 
populous cities of Italy. In a month the sickness is said 
to have carried off 57,000 of the inhabitants of Marseilles 
and its neighbourhood.' One chronicle says that " the 
Bishop, with the entire chapter of the cathedral, and 
nearly all the friars. Preachers and Minorites, together 
with two-thirds of the inhabitants, perished " at this 
time; and adds that upon the sea might be seen ships, 
laden with merchandise, driven about hither and thither 

^ Labbe, Nova Biblioiheca Manuscriptorutn^ i, p. 343. 
^ C. Anglada, Etude sur Us Maladies Eieintes^ p. 432. 



by the waves, the steersman and every sailor having 
been carried off by the disease/ Another, speaking of 
Marseilles after the pestilence had passed, says that " so 
many died that it remained like an uninhabited place." ^ 
It is of interest to record that amongst the survivors 
there was an English doctor, William Grisant, of Merton 
College, Oxford. He had studied medicine at the then 
celebrated school of Montpellier, and was in practice at 
Marseilles during the visitation of the great plague of 
1348, dying two years later, in 1350.' 

At Montpellier the ravages were, if possible, even 
greater. Of the twelve magistrates, or consuls, ten died, 
and in the numerous monasteries scarcely one religious 
was spared. The Dominicans here were very numerous, 
numbering some 140 members, and of these seven only 
are said to have been left alive.* Simon de Covino, a 
doctor, of Paris, who probably witnessed the course of 
the disease at Montpellier, wrote an account of his ex- 
periences in a poetical form in 1350. The moral of his 
verse is the same as Boccaccio's, and the chief interest 
lies in the fact that, like the Italian poet, Covino was an 
eye-witness of what he relates, whilst his medical train- 
ing makes his testimony as to the chief characteristics 
of the disease specially important. The name he gives 
to the malady is the pestis tnguinaria^ or bubonic plague 

^ Matthias Nuewenburgensis in Boehmer, Pontes rerum Ger- 
mamcarumy iv, p. 261. 

^ Henricus Rebdorfensis, lbid.y p. 560. Another account speaks 
of Marseilles remaining afterwards almost " depopulated," and of 
** thousands dying in the adjoining towns" (Ckromcon Pragensey in 
Pontes rerum Austriacarum ScriptoreSy i, p. 395). 

' J. Astruc, Histoire de la Paculti de Midecine de Montpellier 
(Montpellier, 1S62}, p. 184. 

^ Anglada, ut suprOy p. 432. 


of the East. He describes a burning pain, beginning 
under the arms, or in the groin, and extending to the . 
regions of the heart. A mortal fever then spread to the 
vital parts; the heart, lungs, and breathing passages 
were chiefly affected, the strength fell quickly, and the 
person so stricken was unable to fight any length of 
time against the poison. 

One very singular effect of the disease is noted by the 
author: "The pestilence," he asserts, "stamped itself 
upon the entire population. Faces became pale, and the 
doom which threatened the people was marked upon 
their foreheads. It was only necessary to look into the 
countenances of men and women to read there recorded 
the blow which was about to fall; a marked pallor 
announced the approach of the enemy, and before the 
fatal day the sentence of death was written unmistak- 
ably on the face of the victims. No climate appeared to 
have any effect upon the strange malady. It appeared 
to be stayed neither by heat nor cold. High and healthy 
situations were as much subject to it as damp and low 
places. It spread during the colder season of winter as 
rapidly as in the heat of the summer months." 

About the contagious nature of the epidemic there 
could be no doubt " It has been proved," wrote Covino, 
" that when it once entered a house scarcely one of those 
who dwelt in it escaped." The contagion was so great 
that one sick person, so to speak, would "infect the 
whole world." A touch, even a breath, was sufficient to 
transmit the malady." Those who were obliged to render 
ordinary assistance to the sick fell victims. " It happened 
also that priests, those sacred physicians of souls, were 
seized by the plague whilst administering spiritual aid ; 
and often by a single touch, or a single breath of the 


plague-stricken, they perished even before the sick person 
they had come to assist." Clothes were justly regarded 
as infected, and even the furniture of houses attacked 
was suspected. At Montpellier, at the time of the visita- 
tion, the writer says there were more doctors than else- 
where, but hardly one escaped the infection, and this 
even although it was recognised that medical skill was 
of little or no avail. 

According to the experience of this Montpellier doctor 
the mortality was greatest amongst the poor, because 
their hard lives and their poverty rendered them more 
susceptible to the deadly infection, and their condition 
did not enable them to combat it with the chances of 
success possessed by the well-to-do classes. As to the 
extent of the mortality, he says " that the number of 
those swept away was greater than those left alive; cities 
are now (/>., 1350) depopulated, thousands of houses are 
locked up, thousands stand with their doors wide open, 
their owners and those who dwelt in them having been 
swept away.*' Lastly, the writer bears testimony to the 
baneful effect the scourge had upon the morals of those 
who had been spared. Such visitations, he thinks, must 
always exercise the most lowering influence upon the 
general virtue of the world.^ 

From Marseilles the epidemic quickly spread north- 
wards up the Rhone valley, and in a westerly direction 
through Languedoc. Montpellier, too, quickly passed on 
the infection. It commenced at Narbonne in the first 
week of Lent, 1348, and is said to have carried off 30,000 
of the inhabitants. Indeed, so fearful was the visitation, 

^ Opuscule relaiif d. la peste de 1348, composi par un contempo- 
rain in BibliotlUque de PEcoU des Chartes^ le S^r., ii, pp. 201- 


that this ancient city is reported never to have recovered 
from the desolation it caused.^ 

At Aries, which was attacked very shortly after the 
disease had gained a footing on French soil, most of the 
inhabitants perished.' It reached Avignon as early as 
January, 1348. In this city Pope Clement VI, then in 
the sixth year of his pontificate, held his court. Before 
the arrival of the dreaded visitant was publicly recog- 
nised sixty-six religious of the convent of Carmelites 
had been carried off, and in the first three days 1,800 
people are reported to have died. In the seven months 
during which the scourge lasted the vast roll of the dead 
in the territory of Avignon had mounted up to 1 50,000 
persons, amongst whom was the friend of Petrarch, 
Laura de Noves, who died on Good Friday, March 27th, 
1348.* Even in England at the time the excessive mor- 
tality at Avignon was noted and remarked upon.* Great 
numbers of Jews are said to have been carried off 
because of the unsanitary conditions in which they lived, 
and an equally great number of Spaniards resident in 
the city, whose propensity for good living rendered 
them most susceptible to the infection.' 

The alarming mortality quickly caused a panic. " For 
such terror," writes an author of the lives of the Popes 
at Avignon, "took possession of nearly everyone, that 
as soon as the ulcer or boil appeared on anyone he was 
deserted by all, no matter how nearly they might be 

' Martin, Histoire de France (4th ed.), v, p. 109. 
* Phillippe, Histoire deja Peste Noire, p. 103. 
^ Anglada, Maladies Eteintes, p. 431. 
^ Higden, Pofychronicon (ed. Rolls Series), viii, p. 344. 
' L. Michon, Documents inidits sur lagrande peste de 1 348 (Paris, 
1860X p. 22. 


related to him. For the father left his son, the son his 
father, on his sick bed. In any house when a person 
became sick with the infirmity and died it generally 
happened that all others there were attacked and quickly 
followed him to the grave; yea, even the animals in the 
place, such as dogs, cats, cocks, and hens also died. 
Hence those who had strength fled for fear of what had 
taken place, and, as a consequence, many who might 
otherwise have recovered perished through want of care. 
Many, too, who were seized with the sickness, being con- 
sidered certain to die and without any hope of recovery, 
were carried off at once to the pit and buried. And in 
this way many were buried alive." 

The same writer notices the charity of the Pope at 
this terrible time, in causing doctors to visit and assist 
the sick poor. " And since the ordinary cemeteries did 
not suffice to hold the bodies of the dead, the Pope pur- 
chased a large field and caused it to be consecrated as a 
cemetery where anyone might be buried. And here an 
infinite number of people were then interred." * 

The most important and particular account of the 
pestilence at Avignon, however, is that of a certain 
Canon of the Low Countries, who wrote at the time from 
the city to his friends in Bruges. He was in the train of 
a Cardinal on a visit to the Roman Curia when the 
plague broke out " The disease," he writes, " is threefold 
in its infection; that is to say, firstly, men suffer in their 
lungs and breathing, and whoever have these corrupted, 
or even slightly attacked, cannot by any means escape 
nor live beyond two days. Examinations have been 

^ Baluze, Vtttie Paparum Avenionensium^ i, p. 254. In a second 
life of Clement VII (p. 274) it is said that vast pits were dug in the 
public cemetery, where the dead were buried ^ ut pecora gregatim." 


made by doctors in many cities of Italy, and also in 
Avignon, by order of the Pope, in order to discover the 
origin of this disease. Many dead bodies have been thus 
opened and dissected, and it is found that all who have 
died thus suddenly have had their lungs infected and 
have spat blood. The contagious nature of the disease 
is indeed the most terrible of all the terrors (of the 
time), for when anyone who is infected by it dies, all 
who see him in his sickness, or visit him, or do any 
business with him, or even carry him to the grave, 
quickly follow him thither, and there is no known means 
of protection. 

" There is another form of the sickness, however, at 
present running its course concurrently with the first; 
that is, certain aposthumes appear under both arms, and 
by these also people quickly die. A third form of the 
disease — like the two former, running its course at this 
same time with them — ^is that from which people of both 
sexes suffer from aposthumes in the groin. This, like- 
wise, is quickly fatal. The sickness has already grown 
to such proportions that, from fear of contagion, no 
doctor will visit a sick man, even if the invalid would 
gladly give him everything he possessed ; neither does a 
father visit his son, nor a mother her daughter, nor a 
brother his brother, nor a son his father, nor a friend his 
friend, nor an acquaintance his acquaintance, nor, in 
fact, does anyone go to another, no matter how closely 
he may be allied to him by blood, unless he is prepared 
to die with him or quickly to follow after him. Still, a 
large number of persons have died merely through their 
affection for others ; for they might have escaped had 
they not, moved by piety and Christian charity, visited 
the sick at the time. 


" To put the matter shortly, one-half, or more than a 
half, of the people at Avignon are already dead. Within 
the walls of the city there are now more than 7,ocx) 
houses shut up; in these no one is living, and all who 
have inhabited them are departed ; the suburbs hardly 
contain any people at all. A field near ' Our Lady of 
Miracles ' has been bought by the Pope and consecrated 
as a cemetery. In this, from the 13th of March,^ ii,ocx) 
corpses have been buried. This number does not in- 
clude those interred in the cemetery of the hospital of 
St. Anthony, in cemeteries belonging to the religious 
bodies, and in the many others which exist in Avignon. 
Nor must I be silent about the neighbouring parts, for 
at Marseilles all the gates of the city, with the excep- 
tion of two small ones, are now closed, for there four- 
fifths of the inhabitants are dead. 

''The like account I can give of all the cities and 
towns of Provence. Already the sickness has crossed 
the Rhone, and ravaged many cities and villages as far 
as Toulouse, and it ever increases in violence as it pro- 
ceeds. On account of this great mortality there is such 
a fear of death that people do not dare even to speak 
with anyone whose relative has died, because it is fre- 
quently remarked that in a family where one dies nearly 
all the relations follow him, and this is commonly be- 
lieved among the people. Neither are the sick now 
served by their kindred, except as dogs would be; food 
is put near the bed for them to eat and drink, and then 
those still in health fly and leave the house. When a 
man dies some rough countrymen, called gavotit come 
to the house, and, after receiving a sufficiently large 

^ The writer was sending his letter on April 27th, 1348, so that 
the period would have been about six weeks. 


reward, carry the corpse to the grave. Neither relatives 
nor friends go to the sick, nor do priests even hear their 
confessions nor give them the Sacraments; but everyone 
whilst still in health looks after himself. It daily hap- 
pens that some rich man dying is borne to the grave by 
these ruffians without lights, and without a soul to follow 
him, except these hired mourners. When a corpse is 
carried by all fly through the streets and get into their 
houses. Nor do these said wretched gavoti^ strong as 
they are, escape; but most of them after a time become 
infected by this contagion and die. All the poor who 
were wont to receive bread from the rich are dead ; that 
is to say, briefly, where daily in ordinary times there 
were distributed sixty-four measures of wheat for bread, 
fifty loaves being made from each measure, now only 
one measure is given away, and sometimes even a half 
is found to be sufficient. 

" And it is said that altogether in three months — that 
is from January 25th to the present day (April 27th) — 
62,000 bodies have been buried in Avignon. The 
Pope, however, about the middle of March last past, 
after mature deliberation, gave plenary absolution till 
Easter, as far as the keys of the Church extended, to all 
those who, having confessed and being contrite, should 
happen to die of the sickness. He ordered likewise 
devout processions, singing the Litanies, to be made on 
certain days each week, and to these, it is said, people 
sometimes come from the neighbouring districts to the 
number of 2,000; amongst them many of both sexes are 
barefooted, some are in sackcloth, some with ashes, walk- 
ing with tears, and tearing their hair, and beating them- 
selves with scourges even to the drawing of blood. The 
Pope was personally present at some of these processions, 


but they were then within the precincts of his palace. 
What will be the end, or whence all this has had its 
beginning, God alone knows. • . . 

" Some wretched men have been caught with certain 
dust, and, whether justly or unjustly God only knows, 
they are accused of having poisoned the water, and men 
in fear do not drink the water from wells; for this many 
have been burnt and daily are burnt 

" Fish, even sea fish, is commonly not eaten, as people 
say they have been infected by the bad air. Moreover, 
people do not eat, nor even touch spices, which have not 
been kept a year, since they fear they may have lately 
arrived in the aforesaid ships. And, indeed, it has many 
times been observed that those who have eaten these new 
spices and even some kinds of sea fish have suddenly 
been taken ill. 

" I write this to you, my friends, that you may know 
the dangers in which we live. And if you desire to 
preserve yourselves, the best advice is to eat and drink 
temperately, to avoid cold, not to commit excess of any 
kind, and, above all, to converse little with others, at 
this time especially, except with the few whose breath 
is sweet. But it is best to remain at home until this 
epidemic has passed. . . . 

** Know, also, that the Pope has lately left Avigfnon, as 
is reported, and has gone to the castle called Stella, near 
Valence on the Rhone, two leagues off, to remain there 
till times change. The Curia, however, preferred to re- 
main at Avignon, (but) vacations have been proclaimed 
till the feast of St Michael All the auditors, advocates, 
and procurators have either left, intend to leave imme- 
diately, or are dead. I am in the hands of God, to whom 
I commend myself. My master will follow the Pope, so 


they say, and I with him, for there are some castles 
near the airy mountains where the mortality has not yet 
appeared, and it is thought that the best chance is there. 
To choose and to do what is best may the Omnipotent 
and merciful God grant us all. Amen." ^ 

From another source some corroboration of the mor- 
tality, described by the writer of this letter, can be 
obtained. The ii,ooo, stated by the anonymous canon 
to have been buried in the Pope's new cemetery from 
March 13th to April 27th may appear excessive; still 
more, the 62,000 reported to have died in the three 
months between the first outbreak, on January 25th, 
and the date when the letter was written. The state- 
ments of the writer are, however, so circumstantial and 
given with such detail, that, allowing for the tendency in 
all such catastrophes to exaggerate rather than minimise 
the number of the victims, it is probable that his estimate 
of the terrible destruction of life at Avignon and in the 
neighbourhood is substantially accurate. Writing, as 
he does, on the Sunday after Easter, 1348, he evidently 
points to the time of Lent as the period during which 
the epidemic was at its height. This is borne out by a 
statement in a 'German chronicle, which says: ''In 
Venice, in the whole of Italy and Provence, especially 
in the cities on the sea-coast, there died countless num- 
bers. And at Avignon, where the Roman Curia then 
was, in the first three days after mid-Lent Sunday, 
i/^oo people were computed to have been buried."" 
Mid-Lent Sunday, in 1348, fell upon March 30th, and, 
consequently, according to this authority, on the last 

^ Breve Chronicon clerici anonymi^ in De Smet, Recueil des 
Chroniques de Flandre^ iii, pp. 14-18. 
' Henricus Rebdorfensis, in Boehmer, FonUSy iv, p. 560. 



day of March and the first two days of April the death- 
rate was over 450 a day. 

No account of the plague at Avignon would be com- 
plete without some notice of Gui de Chauliac, and some 
quotations from the work he has left to posterity upon 
this particular outbreak. De Chauliac was the medical 
attendant of Pope Clement VI. He devoted himself to 
the service of the sick during the time of the epidemic, 
and, although he himself caught the infection, his life was 
happily spared to the service of others, and to enable 
him to write an account of the sickness. The mortality, 
he says, commenced in the month of January, 1348, and 
lasted for the space of seven months. " It was of two 
kinds ; the first lasted two months, with constant fever 
and blood-spitting, and of this people died in three days. 

" The second lasted for the rest of the time. In this, 
together with constant fever, there were external car- 
buncles, or buboes, under the arm or in the groin, and 
the disease ran its course in five days. The contagion 
was so great (especially when there was blood-spitting) 
that not only by remaining (with the sick), but even by 
looking (at them) people seemed to take it ; so much so, 
that many died without any to serve them, and were 
buried without priests to pray over their graves. 

" A father did not visit his son, nor the son his father. 
Charity was dead. The mortality was so great that it 
left hardly a fourth part of the population. Even the 
doctors did not dare to visit the sick from fear of infec- 
tion, and when they did visit them they attempted 
nothing to heal them, and thus almost all those who 
were taken ill died, except towards the end of the 
epidemic, when some few recovered." 

" As for me, to avoid infamy, I did not dare to absent 


in)rself, but still I was in continual fear." Towards the end 
of the sickness de Chauliac took the infection, and was 
in great danger for six weeks, but in the end recovered.^ 

It was according to the advice of this same Gui de 
Chauliac that Pope Clement VI isolated himself and 
kept large fires always alight in his apartments, just as 
Pope Nicholas IV had done in a previous epidemic. In 
the whole district of Provence the mortality appears to 
have been very great. In the Lent of 1 348 no fewer than 
358 Dominicans are said to have died.' Even by the 
close of the November of this year the terror of the time 
had not passed away from Avignon and the Papal 
Court Writing to King Louis of Hungary, on the 23rd 
of that month, the Pope excused himself for not having 
sent before, "as the deadly plague, which has devastated 
these and other parts of the world by an unknown and 
terrible mortality, has not only, by God's will, carried off 
some of our brethren, but caused others to fly from the 
Roman Curia to avoid death." " 

In the early summer of the same year, 1348, just as 
the plague was lessening its ravages at Avignon, the 
Pope addressed a letter to the General Chapter of the 
Friars Minor then being held at Verona. He laments 
the misery into which the world has been plunged, 
chiefly " by the mortal sickness which is carrying off from 
us old and young, rich and poor, in one common, sudden 
and unforeseen death." He urges them to unite in 
prayer that the plague may cease, and grants special 
indulgences " to such among you as, during this Chap- 
ter, or whilst returning to your homes, may chance to 

* Anglada, Maladies Eteintes, pp. 413-14. 
' Barnes, History of Edward II I.y p. 435. 
' Thiener, Monumenta Historica Hungariae^ i, p. 767. 


die."* Of these Franciscans it is said that, in Italy 
alone, 30,000 died in this sickness. 

From its first entry into France in the early days of 
1348, the plague was ever spreading far and wide. The 
letter from Avignon, already given, speaks of the rav- 
ages of the mortality in the whole of Provence, and of 
its having, before the end of April, reached Toulouse on 
its journey westward. In the August of this year (1348) 
Bordeaux was apparently suffering from it, since in that 
month the Princess Joan, daughter of Edward III, who 
was on her way to be married to Pedro, son of the King 
of Castille, died suddenly in that city. 

In a northerly direction the epidemic spread with 
equal virulence. At Lyons evidence of the pestilence is 
afforded by an inscription preserved in the town museum. 
It relates to the construction of a chapel in 1352 by a 
citizen, "Michael Pancsus," in which Mass should be 
said for the souls of several members of his family'' who 
died in the time of the mortality, 1348."* The anony- 
mous cleric of Bruges, who preserved the Avig^non letter, 
writing probably at the time, gives the following account 
of its progress: "In the year of our Lord 1348, that 
plague, epidemic, and mortality, which we have men- 
tioned before, by the will of God has not ceased ; but 
from day to day grows and descends upon other parts. 
For in Burgundy, Normandy, and elsewhere it has con- 
sumed, and is consuming, many thousands of men, 
animals, and sheep." ' 

^ Wadding, AnnaUs Minarumy viii, p. 25 (ed. 1723). 

• Olivier de la Haye, Poime sur la grande pesU de 1348. Intro- 
duction par G. Guigue, p. xviii, note. 

' Breve Chronicon in De Smet, Recueil des Chroniques de 
Flandre^ iii, p. 19. 


It arrived in Normandy probably about the feast of 
St James (2Sth July), 1348. A contemporary note in a 
manuscript, which certainly came from the Abbey of 
Foucarmont, gives the following account: " In the year 
of grace 1348, about the feast of St James, the great 
mortality entered into Normandy. And it came into 
Gascony, and Poitou, and Brittany, and then passed into 
Picardy. And it was so horrible that in the towns it 
attacked more than two-thirds of the population died. 
And a father did not dare to go and visit his son, nor a 
brother his sister, and people could not be found to 
nurse one another, because, when the person breathed 
the breath of another he could not escape. It came to 
such a pass that no one could be found even to carry 
the corpses (to the tomb). People said that the end of 
the world had come." * In another manuscript, M. De- 
lisle has found a further note, or portion of a note, refer- 
ring to the terrible nature of the malady in Normandy. 
It never entered a city or town without carrying off the 
greater part of the inhabitants. *' And in that time the 
mortality was so great among the people of Normandy 
that those in Picardy mocked them." * 

Paris was, of course, visited by the disease. Appar- 
ently, it was some time in the early summer of 1348 
when it first manifested itself. In the chronicle of St 
Denis it is recorded that "in the year of grace 1348 the 
said mortality commenced in the Kingdom of France 
and lasted about a year and a half, more or less. In this 
way there died in Paris, one day with another, 800 per- 
sons. ... In the space of the said year and a half, as 
some declare, the number of the dead in Paris rose to 

^ Delisle, Cabinet des Manuscrits^ i, p. 532. 
^ Ibid, Here the note abniptly finishes. 


more than 50,000, and in the town of St. Denis the 
number was as high as 16,000."' The chronicle of the 
Carmelites at Rheims places the total of deaths in Paris 
at the larger number of 80,000,' amongst whom were 
two Queens, Joan of Navarre, daughter of Louis X, and 
Joan of Burgundy, wife of King Philip of Valois. 

The most circumstantial account of the plague in 
France at the time when the capital was attacked is 
given in the continuation of the chronicle of William of 
Nangis, which was written probably before 1368. "In 
the same year" (1348), it says, "both in Paris in the 
kingdom of France, and not less, as is reported, in 
different parts of the world, and also in the following 
year, there was so great a mortality of people of both 
sexes, and of the young rather than the old, that they 
could hardly be buried. Further they were ill scarcely 
more than two or three days, and some often died sud- 
denly, so that a man to-day in good health, to-morrow 
was carried a corpse to the grave. Lumps suddenly 
appeared under the arm-pits or in the groin, and the 
appearance of these was an infallible sig^ of death. 
This sicknessj or pestilence, was called by the doctors 
the epidemic. And the multitude of people who died in 
the years 1348 and 1349, was so large that nothing like 
it was ever heard, read of, or witnessed in past ages. 
And the said death and sickness often sprung from the 
imagination, or from the society and (consequent) con- 
tagion of another, for a healthy man visiting one sick 
hardly ever escaped death. So that in many towns, 
small and great, priests retired through fear, leaving the 
administration of the Sacraments to religious, who were 

^ H. Martin, Histoire tU France^ v, p. iii. 
' Marlot, Histoire de Rdms^ iv, p. 63. 


more bold. Briefly, in many places, there did not remain 
two alive out of every twenty. 

"So great was the mortality in the Hotel-Dieu of 
Paris that for a long time more than fifty corpses were 
carried away from it each day in carts to be buried.* 
And the devout sisters of the Hotel-Dieu, not fearing 
death, worked piously and humbly, not out of regard for 
any worldly honour. A great number of these siaid 
sisters were very frequently summoned to their reward 
by death, and rest in peace with Christ, as is piously 

After SB,ying that the plague had passed through 
Gascony and Spain, the chronicler speaks of it as going 
" from town to town, village to village, from house to 
house, and even from person to person ; and coming into 
the country of France, passed into Germany, where, 
however, it was less severe than amongst us." 

" It lasted in France," the writer says, " the greater 
part of 1348 and 1349, and afterwards there were to be 
seen many towns, country places, and houses in good 
cities remaining empty and without inhabitants." 

The writer concludes by declaring that nature soon 
began to make up for losses. " But, alas I the world by 
this renovation is not changed for the better. For people 
were afterwards more avaricious and grasping, even 
when they possessed more of the goods of this world, 
than before. They were more covetous, vexing them- 

^ All copies of this chronicle give *^ quingente^^ and it has usually 
been stated that the number so buried each day was 500. M. Gdraud, 
who edited the work for the Soci^t^ de THistoire de France, suggests 
that it is a mistake for 50, and quotes two MSS., in which in the 
margin the following note is found : '' L corps par jour a I'Hostel- 
Dieu de Paris.'' As this reading is more probable it has been 
adopted above. 


selves by contentious quarrels, strifes, and law suits." 
Moreover, all things were much dearer; furniture, food, 
merchandise of all sorts, doubled in price, and servants 
would work only for higher wages. " Charity, too, from 
that time began to grow cold, and wickedness with its 
attendant, ignorance, was rampant, and few were found 
who could or would teach children the rudiments of 
grammar in houses, cities, or villages." * 

Whilst the plague was at its height King Philip VI 
requested the medical faculty of Paris to consult to- 
gether and to report upon the best methods by which 
the deadly nature of the disease could be combated. The 
result of their consultation was published, probably in 
June, 1348.' Unfortunately, adhering closely to the text 
of the question addressed to them, their reply does not 
furnish any historical details. They broadly state their 
views as to the probable origin of the epidemic, and 
confine themselves to suggestions as to its treatment, 
and to the means by which contagion is to be avoided. 
They are clear as to the infectious nature of the disease, 
and earnest in their recommendations that all who were 
able should have nothing to do with the sick. "It is 
chiefly the people of one house, and above all those of 
the same family, who are close together," they say, " who 
die, for they are always near to those who are sick. We 
advise them to depart, for it is in this way that a great 
number have been infected by the plague." ' 

Meanwhile the epidemic was spreading northward. 

^ ConHnuatio Chronici GuilUlmidi NangiacOy id. pour la Soci^t6 
de PHistoire de France par H. G^raud, ii, pp. 211-217. 

* They speak in the document of " the 17th of the ensuing month 
of July." 

' Michon, Documents inidiis sur la Peste Noire^ p. 22. 


At Amiens, where ijfyoo are said to have been carried 
off by the sickness, it seems probable that the malady 
was not at its height before the summer of the following 
year, 1349. The wave of pestilence from Paris seems to 
have divided. One stream swept on through Normandy 
towards the coast, which it probably reached, in the 
regions round Calais, about July or August of the year 

1 348. The other stream, checked probably by the autumn 
and winter, made its way more slowly towards Belgium 
and Holland. 

In the June of 1349 the King granted a petition from 
the Mayor of Amiens for a new cemetery. In the docu- 
ment the plague in the city is described as having been 
then SO' terrible that the cemeteries are full, and no more 
corpses could safely be buried in them. " The mortality 
in the said town," says the King's letter, "is so mar- 
vellously great that people are dying there suddenly, as 
quickly, as from one evening to the following morning, 
and often even quicker than that." * This was in June, 

1349, and already by September of the same year the 
authorities were called upon to deal with a combination 
of workmen at a tannery to secure for themselves ex- 
cessive wages " to the great hurt of the people at large." 
The promptness of the action of the Mayor, and the 
tone of the proclamation establishing a rate of wages, is 
a sufficient proof that the crisis was regarded as serious.' 
This trouble at Amiens is an indication of difficulties 
which will be seen to have existed elsewhere in France, 
in Germany, and in England, which had their origin in 
the dearth of labourers after the scourge had passed. 

* Thierry, Recueil des Monuments inidits de VHistoire du Tiers 
Etaty i, p. 544. 
' /^., p. 546^ 


The account of the ravages of this great pestilence in 
France, as well as its course in the city of Tournay, 
where it commenced in August, 1349, is well given in 
the chronicle of Gilles Li Muisis, Abbot of St. Martin's, 
Tournay, who was a contemporary of the events he 
describes. "It is impossible," he says, "to credit the 
mortality throughout the whole country. Travellers, 
merchants, pilgrims, and others who have passed through 
it declare that they have found cattle wandering without 
herdsmen in fields, towns, and waste lands; that they 
have seen bams and wine-cellars standing wide open, 
houses empty, and few people to be found anywhere. 
So much so that in many towns, cities and villages, 
where there had been before 20,000 people, scarcely 
2,000 are left; and in many cities and country places, 
where there had been 1,500 people, hardly 100 remain. 
And in many different lands {multis climatibus), both 
lands and fields are lying uncultivated. I have heard 
these things from a certain knight well skilled in the 
law, who was one of the members of the Paris Parlia- 
ment He was sent, together with a certain Bishop, by 
Philip, the most illustrious King of France, to the King 
of Aragon, and on his return journey passed through 
Avignon. Both there and in Paris, as he told me, he 
was informed of the foresaid things by many people 
worthy of credit." 

After speaking of the evidence given by a pilgrim to 
Santiago, Li Muisis proceeds to relate his own experi- 
ences in Tournay in the summer of 1349. This he does 
in verse and prose. The poem, after speaking of the 
manifestation of God's anger, describes the plague be- 
ginning in the East and passing through France into 
Flanders. Like other writers, Li Muisis declares that 


he hesitates to say what he has seen and heard, because 
posterity will hardly credit what he would relate.* The 
reports of all travellers and merchants as to the terrible 
state of the country generally give one and the same 
sad story of universal death and distress. The par- 
ticulars as to the plague in Tournay, the writer's own 
city, may best be given from his prose account. 

John de Pratis, the Bishop of Tournay, was ono of the 
first to be carried off by the sickness. He had gone 
away for change of air, and on Corpus Christi Day, 
June nth, 1349, he carried the blessed Sacrament in 
the procession at Arras. He left that city the next day 
for Cambray, but died the day after almost suddenly.' 
He was buried at Tournay; and "time passed on," says 
our author, to the beginning of August, up to which no 
other person of authority died in Tournay. But after 
the feast of St. John the plague began in the parish of 
St. Fiat, in the quarter of Merdenchor, and afterwards 
in other parishes. Every day the bodies of the dead 
were borne to the churches, now five, now ten, now 
fifteen, and in the parish of St. Brice sometimes twenty 
or thirty. In all parish churches the curates, parish 
clerks, and sextons to get their fees, rang morning, 
evening, and night the passing bells, and by this the 
whole people of the city, both men and women, began 
to be filled with fear. 

The officials of the town consequently seeing that the 
Dean and Chapter, and the clerics generally, did not 

* " Certe dicere timeo 

Quae vidi et quae video 
De ista pestilentia.'' 

^ Gams, Series Episcoporum^ gives 13th June, 1349, as the day 
of his death. 


care to remedy this matter, since it was in their interest 
it should go on, as they made profit out of it, having 
taken counsel together, issued certain orders. Men and 
women who, although not married, were living together 
as man and wife, were commanded either to marry or 
forthwith to separate. The bodies of the dead were to 
be buried immediately in graves at least six feet deep. 
There was to be no tolling of any bells at funerals. The 
corpse was not to be taken to the church, but at the 
service only a pall was to be spread on the ground, whilst 
after the service there was to be no gathering together 
at the houses of the deceased. Further, all work after 
noon on Saturdays and during the entire Sunday was 
prohibited, as also was the playing of dice and making 
use of profane oaths. 

These ordinances having lasted for a time, and the 
sickness still further increasing, it was proclaimed on 
St. Matthew's Day (September 24th) that there should 
be no more ringing of bells, that not more than two 
were to meet for any funeral service, and that no one 
was to dress in black. This action of the city authorities, 
the writer declares to have been most beneficial. In his 
own knowledge, he says, many who had hitherto been 
living in a state of concubinage were married, that the 
practice of swearing notably diminished, and that dice 
were so little used that the manufacturers turned '*the 
square-shaped dice " into *' round objects on which people 
told their Pater Nostersy 

I have tried, says our author, to write what I know, 
"and let future generations believe that in Toumay 
there was a marvellous mortality. I heard from many 
about Christmas time who professed to know it as a 
fact that more than 25,000 persons had died in Toumay, 


and it was strange that the mortality was especially great 
among the chief people and the rich. Of those who used 
wine and kept away from the tainted air and visiting 
. the sick few or none died. But those visiting and fre- 
quenting the houses of the sick either became grievously 
ill or died. Deaths were more numerous about the mar- 
ket places and in poor narrow streets than in broader 
and more spacious areas. And whenever one or two 
people died in any house, at once, or at least in a short 
space of time, the rest of the household were carried off. 
So much so, that very often in one home ten or more 
ended their lives together, and in many houses the dogs 
and even cats died. Hence no one, whether rich, in 
moderate circumstances, or poor, was secure, but every- 
one from day to day waited on the will of the Lord. 
And certainly great was the number of curates and 
chaplains hearing confessions and administering the 
Sacraments, and even of parish clerks visiting the sick 
with them, who died." 

In the parishes across the river, the mortality was as 
great as in Toumay itself. Although death as a rule 
came so suddenly, still the people for the most part were 
able to receive the Sacraments. The rapidity of the 
disease, remarked upon by Petrarch and Boccaccio in 
Italy, is also spoken of in the same terms by the Abbot 
of St Martin's. People that one had seen apparently 
well and had spoken to one evening were reported dead 
next day. He specially remarks upon the mortality 
among the clergy visiting the sick,' and speaks of the 
creation of two new cemeteries outside the walls of the 

^ '' Quia de sacerdotibus 
Infirmos visitantibus 
Quamplurimi defecerunt" 


town. One was in a field near the Leper House De ValUy 
the other at the religious house of the Crutched Friars. 
Strange to say, Li Muisis speaks of the disfavour with 
which this necessary precaution of establishing new 
grave-yards was regarded. People, he says, grumbled 
because they were no longer allowed to be buried in 
their own family vaults. The town authorities, however, 
were firm, and as the pestilence increased deep pits were 
dug in these two common burying places, and into them 
numbers of bodies were constantly being thrown and 
covered up with a slight layer of earth/ 

It has been supposed by many that the accounts 
given by contemporary writers of the excessive mortality 
throughout the countries of Europe must be greatly 
exaggerated, and that the population in the middle of 
the fourteenth century was not sufficiently large to allow 
of the number of deaths. On the one hand it is evident 
that in the majority of cases the round figures stated 
can be at most nothing more than a rough approxima- 
tion of the actual deaths, and that the natural tendency 
of those who have witnessed a catastrophe as great and 
as universal as that of the plague of 1348 and sub- 
sequent years, is to magnify, rather than to diminish, 
the disaster. On the other hand, whilst allowing that in 
most cases the actual figures are little more than guesses 
at the truth, and can only be taken as evidence of the 
belief of the age in the magnitude of the mortality, it 
must be admitted that Italy, France, and other countries 
of Europe were at the time more teeming with popula- 
tion than is perhaps usually understood 

' Chronicon majus JSgidii Id Muisis^ abboHs SH, Martini 
Tomacensis^ in De Smet, Recutil des Chroniquts de Flandre^ ii, 
pp. 279-281 and 361-382. 


M. Simeon Luce has made a special study of the 
conditions of French popular life at this period/ and 
the conclusions at which he has arrived may be here 
usefully stated in brief. It has been proved by the 
labours of French antiquaries that the general popula- 
tion of France before the great pestilence of 1 348-1 349, 
and the hundred years' war with England, was equal to 
what it is in the present century. Numerous vills^es 
were scattered over the face of the country, every trace 
of which has now disappeared. The houses, or rather 
huts, in which the population of rural France lived were 
very seldom framed of any kind of masonry, but were 
for the most part merely four mud, or clay, walls, and 
sometimes wickerwork lined, and the interstices filled in, 
with hay and straw. As a rule there was but one storey, 
although some, chiefly taverns and places of that class, 
had an upper floor. The roof was thatched or covered 
with wood or stone; windows were the exception, and 
where they did exist they were mere slits in the clay 
walls closed with wooden shutters. Even the coarse 
opaque glass then made was beyond the means of the 
ordinary peasant and farmer, whilst just about this time 
even a rich bourgeois of Paris recommended the filling 
of windows with waxen cloth or parchment. The doors 
were fastened with wooden latches, and over them, ac- 
cording to the general arrangement, a shutter of wood 
was fixed which was generally left open for air, light, 
and to allow the smoke of the brushwood fire to pass 
out of the living room. It will be readily understood 
how the condition of life in houses such as these would 
not be such as to put much obstacle to the spread of an 
epidemic in the rural districts; whilst if such tenements 
' S. Luce, Bertrand du Guesclin^ i, ch. 3. 


were vacant even for a short time they would readily 
fall into decay and would present the spectacle of ruin 
and desolation spoken of by so many writers of the 
period as caused by the great pestilence. 

The furniture of these houses was simple, but very 
much what it is now in small country houses. The in- 
ventories of the period show that most houses had vessels 
of copper, tin and glass, and that there were few who 
did not possess some articles of silver. The people for 
the most part lived on a soup of bread and meal ; but even 
by the fourteenth century white bread was by no means 
unknown. The principal meat was pork fed in the 
forests, but most cottages possessed a spit upon which 
fowls, previously larded, were occasionally roasted. Of 
condiments, mustard was the chief, and it was much, if 
not universally, used. Even in the humblest houses a 
cloth would be spread on the table at meals. For drink 
there was the wine of the country, and in Normandy 
cider was plentiful. With the drink, especially in taverns 
which were exceedingly numerous, a little ginger would 
generally be mixed. In dress fur of various kinds was 
much used, and, by the time of this pestilence, in France 
the use of the linen shirt as an undei^arment had be- 
come almost universal. The sleeping places were dark, 
airless recesses, in which the people, having divested 
themselves of all clothing, rested upon straw mattresses, 
or sometimes on feather beds. Contrary to the opinion 
entertained by persons of repute there is evidence to 
show that bathing was common and much used, especi- 
ally among the lower classes, and that even small villages 
had their public bath places. 

This sketch of the epidemic in these regions may be 
concluded by one or two instances of the agrarian diffi- 


culties which followed upon it On August i6th, 1349, 
the Emperor Charles IV issued an order to the tenants 
of the Abbey of St. Trond, in the diocese of Liige, to 
return to their obedience. The document says that the 
holders of the Abbey lands and other dependents are 
now demanding their own terms and claiming liberty 
to do what they like, with the result that the Abbot and 
monastery are so distressed in temporal matters that 
absolute ruin is impending.^ The second instance is that 
of the Abbey of St. John at Laon. A document, ad- 
dressed by the French King Charles to the Abbot and 
convent, says that the monastery is so decayed in re- 
venues that it is impossible to keep up the fitting and 
proper services of the Church. And although the letter 
was not written till nearly the close of the century — 
1392-3 — ^the cause assigned for this poverty and decay 
is " the great mortality which took place about the year 
1349," by which the tithes and other revenues were 

And to quote but one more example: "On 5th July, 
1352, relief was granted to the inhabitants of the town 
of Arras because by reason of the wars, and because of 
the mortality which has been universal in the world, the 
said city is so greatly decayed, both as to buildings and 
people, as also in revenues and temporal goods, that it 
is on the high road to (absolute) desolation." " 

^ Piot, Cartulaire de Vabbaye de Saint-Trond^ i, 507. 

' Lechner, Das grosse Sterben in Deutschlandy p. 93. For the 
diminution of the population in France, cf. Le Budget et la Popula- 
tion de la France sous Philippe de Valois^ A. M. de Boislisle, 1875. 



IN following the great pestilence through Europe, 
according to the historical sequence of events, its 
course in England should be now described. Inasmuch, 
however, as the story of the ravages caused by the dis- 
ease in England will be told in greater detail, it may con- 
veniently be left till the last. Here a brief account may be 
interposed of the mortality in other European countries, 
although it will take the reader to the year 1351. 

From Sicily, Sardinia, and Corsica the plague was 
carried to the Balearic Islands. The three streams of 
infection met with destructive force at Majorca. The 
historian Zurita declares that in less than a month 
15,000 persons had perished on the island. Another 
writer estimates the total loss of life during the epidemic 
at double that number, and some ancient records have 
been quoted as stating that in the island eight out of 
every ten people must have died, a proportion, of course, 
exaggerated, but sufficient to show local tradition as to 
the extent of the misfortune. In the monasteries and 
convents, according to this authority, not one religious 
was left; and the Dominicans are said to have been 
obliged to recruit their numbers by enrolling quite 
young children.^ 

The scourge fell upon Spain in the early part of the 
year 1348. It is supposed to have first appeared at 

* Philippe, Histoire de la Peste Noire^ p. 54. 


Almdra, and in Barcelona whole quarters of the city 
were depopulated and rendered desolate by it. In May, 
1348, it was already raging in Valencia, and by mid- 
summer 300 persons a day are reported to have been 
buried in the city. At Saragossa, where Pedro IV then 
was, the malady was at its height in September. The 
people here, as elsewhere, became hardened, and charity 
died out in the presence of the terrors of death. They 
fled from the sick, leaving them to die alone, and aban- 
doned the corpses of the dead in the streets. Most of 
the cities and villages of Spain suffered more or less 
severely, and the sickness appears to have lingered 
longer here than in most other countries. The new 
Queen of Aragon had been one of the earliest victims; 
Alfonso XI was one of the last. In March, 1350, he 
was laying siege to Gibraltar, when the plague broke 
out suddenly with great violence amongst his troops. 
He refused to retire, as his officers desired him to do, 
and fell a victim to the epidemic on Good Friday, 
March 26th, 1350.^ 

An interesting account of Northern Spain during the 
plague is given in the chronicle of Li Muisis, Abbot of 
St. Martin's, Toumay, from which much was cited in the 
previous chapter. The writer says that he learnt the 
details from "a pilgrim, who, in going to St James' (of 
Compostella), passed by Notre Dame de Roc Amadour' 
and by Toulouse, because by reason of the wars he could 
not travel the usual way." This pilgrim to Compostella, 
in the middle of the fourteenth century, would conse- 
quently have crossed the Pyrenees by one of the passes 

^ Philippe, HisUdre de la PisU Naire^ pp. 54-56. 
' This was a place of pilgrimage on the Amadour, not far from 


into Navarre, and so travelled along the north of Spain 
to Santiago. Having performed his pilgrimage, Li Muisis 
informs us that he returned through Galicia, and "with his 
companion, reached a town named Salvaterra," probably 
the place now called Salvatierra, situated below the 
Pyrenees, and just above the Sierra de la Pena. This 
town, as the traveller reported, " was so depopulated by 
the mortality that not one person out of ten had been 
left alive. The city itself was fairly large. The said 
pilgrim related," says Li Muisis, '* that after supping with 
the host (who, with two daughters and one servant, had 
alone so far survived of his entire family, and who was , 
not then conscious of any sickness upon him), he settled < 
with him for his entertainment, intending to start on his 
journey at daybreak, and went to bed. Next morning 
rising and wanting something from those with whom 
they had supped, the travellers could make no one hear. 
Then they learnt from an old woman they found in bed 
that the host, his two daughters, and servant had died in 
the night On hearing this the pilgrims made all haste ; 
to leave the place."* 

From North Italy the pestilence soon spread to the 
country across the Adriatic, if indeed it had not already 
been infected independently, as seems more than prob- 
able, by ships from the East The port of Ragusa, in 
Dalmatia, is said to have been attacked as early as 
January 13th, 1348, and more than 7,000 are reported as 
having been swept away by it A letter sent in April to 
the authorities "condoles with them on the terrible 
mortality, by which the population had been so greatly 
diminished."* At Spalatro, on March 22nd, 1348, the 

^ Chronicon majus jEgidii Li Muisis^ ii, 280. 

' Lechner, Das grosse Sierben in Deutschland^ p. 21. 


Archbishop Dominic de Lucaris died of the disease, and 
it is known to have raged for some months in the city. 
An anonymous chronicler of Spalatro in the fifteenth 
century, who professed to take his account of this period 
from ancient records, declares that it is impossible to 
picture " the terrors and miseries of these unhappy days." 
To add to the horror of the situation, as he declares, 
wolves and other wild animals came down from the 
mountains and fell upon the plague-stricken city and 
boldly attacked the survivors. The same writer notes 
the rapidity with which the disease carried off those it 
attacked. According to him, when swellings or car- 
buncles appeared on any part of the body, all hope of 
saving the life of the patient was abandoned. As a rule, 
those stricken in this way died in three or at most four 
days, and so great was the general mortality that bodies 
were left lying unburied in the streets, because there were 
none to carry them to the grave.* 

Further north again, Sebenico, through intercourse 
with which, very possibly, the plague was carried into 
Hungary, was attacked in the spring of the same year, 
1348. By the 8th of May the Count of Sebenico had 
written a description of the wretched condition and state 
of the city, by reason of the great mortality in those 
parts, through which it had been left almost without in- 
habitants.' Istria, on August 27th, 1348, was declared in 
a Venetian State paper to have suffered greatly. The 
people left, especially in the city of Pola, were very few, 
so many having been swept away " by the late pestil- 

From Venice the epidemic spread northwards into 

* Farlati, Illyricum Sacrum^ iii, p. 324. 

' Lechner, ut sup,^ p. 22. * Ibid. 


Austria and Hungary. Attacking on its way Padua and 
Verona, it passed up the valley of the Etsch and was 
already at Trent on June 2nd, 1348. Thence it spread 
quickly through Botzen up the Brenner Pass, in the 
Tyrolese Alps, and was at Muhldorf on the Inn, in 
Bavaria on June 29th, 1348.* Here it seems to have 
lasted for a considerable time. One chronicler, writing* 
of the subsequent year, 1349, says " that from the feast of 
St. Michael, 1348, there perished in Muhldorf 1400 of 
the better class of inhabitants."' Another, speaking of 
the plague generally, says " that it raged so terribly in 
Carinthia, Austria, and Bavaria that many cities were 
depopulated, and in some towns which it visited many 
families were destroyed so completely that not a member 
was found to have survived."' 

In November of the same year, 1348, the epidemic is 
found in Styria, at Neuberg, in the valley of the Miirz. 
The Neuberg Chronicle, giving an account of it, says, 
" Since this deadly pestilence raged everywhere, cities 
became desolate which up to this had been populous. 
Their inhabitants were swept off in such numbers that 
such as were left, with closed gates, strenuously watched 
that no one should steal the property of those departed." 
After speaking of Venice, it continues, " The pest in its 
wanderings came to Carinthia, and then so completely 
took possession of Styria, that people, rendered desper- 
ate, walked about as if mad." 

" From so many sick pestilential odours proceeded, 
infecting those visiting and serving them, and very fre- 
quently it happened that when one died in a house all, 

^ Lechner, ut sup,^ p. 23. 

' Annaies Maiseenses in Mon. Germ,^ ix, 829. 

' Annaies Mellkenses^ Ibid,^ P- 5i3« 


one after the other, were carried off. So certain was this 
that no one could be found to stop in the houses of the 
sick, and relations, as if in the natural course of events, 
seem to die all together. As a consequence of this over- 
whelming visitation, cattle were left to wander in the 
fields without guardians, for no one thought of troubling 
himself about the future; and wolves coming down from 
the mountains to attack them, against their instincts, 
and as if frightened by something unseen, quickly fled 
into the wilds again. Property, too, both moveable and 
immoveable, which sick people leave by will, is carefully 
avoided by all, as if it were sure to be infected. The 
sickness . . . declined about the feast of St. Martin 
(November i ith), 1348, and at Neuberg it had carried off 
many monks and inhabitants."^ 

It is necessary to return once again to North Italy, 
from which another wave of pestilence rolled on to 
Switzerland. The contemporary — ^but not very accurate 
— notary of Novara, Peter Azarius, speaks to the fact of 
the plague being at Momo, Gallarete, Varese, and Bellin- 
zona,' on the great highway over the Alps through the 
St. Gothard Pass, and all in the immediate neighbourhood 
of his home. What Azarius says from personal ex- 
perience of this terrible time is of interest He had left 
his house at Novara for fear of the disease, and resting 
for a while in the town of Tortona, he occupied himself 
in philosophising upon the misfortunes which had fallen 
upon Lombardy, and the strange unchristian neglect of 
the sick he could hardly help noticing. " I have seen," 
he says, " a rich man perish, who, even by offering an 

* Continuatio Novimontensis^ ibid,^ p. 675. 
' Chronicofiy in Muratori, xvi, 361. He places the event under 
the year 1347. 


immense sum of money, could get no one to help him. 
Through fear of the infection I have seen a father not 
caring for his son, nor a son for his father, nor a brother 
for a brother, nor a friend for his friend, nor a neighbour 
for his neighbour. And what was worse than this, I have 
seen a family, although one of high position, miserably 
perish, not being able to get any help or assistance. 
Medicine being useless, the strong and the young, men 
and women, were struck down in a moment, and all the 
infected were so shunned that none dared even to enter 
their houses."* 

From the pass of St. Gothard the epidemic passed 
down the Rhine Valley, and before the close of 1348 was 
in the neighbourhood of Dissentis; whilst by May, 1349, 
the district round about the monastery of Pfaffers, half 
way between the pass of St. Gothard and Lake Con- 
stance, had been attacked. Shortly afterwards the country 
near the celebrated Abbey of St Gall was likewise 
greatly afflicted.' 

Meanwhile another wave of pestilence passed into 
Switzerland from the side of France. Avignon had been 
attacked, as it has been shown, in the early part of 
1348, and thence the infection was carried up the Rhone 
Valley to the Lake of Geneva. Thence one stream 
passed in a north-easterly direction over Switzerland, 
and a second followed the course of the river Rhone. 
By the 17th of March, 1349, the plague was at Ruswyl, 
in the neighbourhood of Lucerne, having passed through 
Berne on its way.' At Lucerne alone, 3,000 people are 
said to have died of the disease. It must have remained 
about the neighbourhood of this lake for some months, 

* Chronicon^ in Muratori, xvi, 298. 

^ Lechner, 11/ sup,^ p. 27. * IbiiL 


for It was not until September, 1349, that it is known to 
have manifested its presence in the high and healthy 
valley of Engelberg. "This year (1349)," says the 
chronicler of the Abbey of Engelberg, " the pestilence 
or mortality was great, and, indeed most great, in this 
valley, so that more than twenty houses were left empty 
without an inhabitant In the same year, from the feast 
of Our Lady's nativity, September 8th, to the feast of 
the Epiphany, 116 of our nuns died in the cloister. One 
of the first to die was the Superior Catherine; about the 
middle (of the epidemic) the venerable Mother Beatrix, 
Countess of Arberg, formerly Superior; and on the 
morrow of Holy Innocents, Mechtilde of Wolfenschies- 
sen, the new Superior likewise passed away. And of our 
own numbers (there died) two priests and five scholars." * 
Basle was attacked, and is said to have lost some 
14,000 people about the middle of the year; Zurich 
about September nth; and Constance some time during 
the winter. 

It is unnecessary to follow the wanderings of the great 
mortality in detail further through Europe. The annals 
of almost every country prove incontestably that most 
places were in turn visited, and more or less depopu- 
lated, by the epidemic. By April 4th, 1349, it was re- 
ported in Venice that the pestilence was raging in 
Hungary, and by June 7th the King could declare 
" that by Divine mercy it had now ceased in our king- 
dom." It must consequently have commenced in the 
country in the early part of the year, although there is 
evidence that it was still to be found in some parts in 
October of the same year. Poland was attacked about 
the same time as Hungary. Here it is said many of the 
^ AnnaUs Engelbergenses in Mon. Germ,^ xvii, 281. 


nobility died. There seemed no help for the daily mis- 
fortunes. The sickness rendered desolate not alone 
numberless houses, but even towns and villages.^ 

It has been already pointed out that the pestilence 
had reached Neuberg, in Styria, by the autumn of the 
year 1348. It was only the following year, about the 
feast of St John the Baptist, June 24th, 1349, that such 
a plague as never before was either heard or seen was 
raging in Vienna. 

It commenced seemingly about Easter time, and lasted 
till St. Michael's, and a third part of the population was 
carried off by it' Each day there died 500 or 600, and 
one day 960.' The dead were buried in trenches, each 
of which, according to one chronicle, contained some 
6,000 corpses. The parish of St Stephen lost 54 eccle- 
siastics during the course of the epidemic, and when it 
passed some 70 families were found to be entirely 
extinct, whilst the property of many more had passed 
into the hands of very distant relations. 

Another account declares that in the city and neigh- 
bourhood barely a third of the population survived. 
" Because of the odour, and horror inspired by the dead 
bodies, burials in the church cemeteries were not 
allowed; but as soon as life was extinct the corpses 
were carried out of the city to a common burial-place 
(called) * God's acre.' There the deep and broad pits 
were quickly filled to the top with the dead. And this 
plague lasted from Pentecost to St Michael's ; and not 
alone in Vienna, but in the surrounding country it raged 
with great fury. It spared not the monks and the nuns, 

^ Dlugoss, Historia PolonicOy in Philippe, ut sup,y p. 94. 
' KaUndarium ZwetUnse^ in Mon, Germ,^ ix, 692. 
* Annales Matseenses^ Ibid,^ 829. 


for in (the Cistercian Abbey of) Heiligenkreuz 53 re- 
ligious at the same time passed out of this life." ^ 

In Bohemia the winter cold apparently put a stop to 
the sickness at its commencement. "The mortality 
commenced to be severe in Bohemia, but the recent cold 
and snow stayed it." However, "in the year 1350 the 
plague again devastated various countries, and then in 
Bohemia likewise it was to be found." ' 

The wave of pestilence which passed up the Rhine 
Valley and attacked Basle passed on to Colmar, and 
appeared in Strasburg in July, 1349.' At the end of the 
same year, about December i8th, it had reached Cologne. 
" In the first year of archbishop William von Grennep 
(who succeeded to the See of that city on the above 
date) there was," says the chronicle, " a great pestilence 
in Cologne and its neighbourhood." * 

Meanwhile the wave had divided lower down the 
valley of the Rhine, for in the summer of 1349 the 
plague was raging at Frankfort. " In that year," writes 
Caspar Camentz, " from the feast of St. Mary Magdalene 
(July 22nd) to the feast of the Purification following 
(February 2nd, 1350) the universal pestilence was at 
Frankfort. In the space of 72 days more than 2,000 
people died. Every second hour they were buried with- 
out bell, priest, or candle. On one day 35 were buried 
at one time." * 

During 1349 and 1350 the pestilence was rife in the 
towns and country places of Prussia. In the latter year 

^ CantinuaHo Novinumtensis^ in Mon. Germ.^ ix, 675. 
' Chronican Pragense^ ed. Loserth (in Pontes rerum Austriac- 
arumy Scriptores^ t viii) p. 603. 
' Lechner, ut sup,y p. 35. * Ibid.j p. 38. 

' Boehmer, Pontes rerum Germ.^ iv, 434. 


it attacked Bremen in the far north, and in the following 
year the authorities of the city took a census of the 
numbers that had been carried off by it " In the year of 
our Lord 1350," the account says, "the plague had gone 
round the world and had visited Bremen, and the Council 
determined to take the number of the dead, and it was 
found that of known and named people there were 
(entered on the list) in the parish of St. Mary 1,816; 
in that of St. Martin, 141 5; in St. Anschar's, 1,922; 
and in St Stephen's, 1,813; moreover, numberless people 
had died in the fields beyond the walls and in cemeteries, 
the number of whom, as known and described, reached 
almost 7,000.* 

From Flanders, where the pestilence was at Toumay 
in December, 1349, as before reported, the epidemic 
spread into Holland. Here in the following year its pro- 
gress was marked by the same great mortality, especially 
among those who lived together in monasteries and con- 
vents. "At this time," writes the chronicler, "the plague 
raged in Holland as furiously as has ever been seen. 
People died walking in the streets. In the Monastery of 
Fleurchamps 80 died, including monks and lay brethren. 
In the Abbey of Foswert, which was a double monastery 
for men and women, 207 died, including monks, nuns, 
lay brethren, and lay sisters." ' 

This brief review of the progress of the plague in 
Europe will be sufficient to show that the mortality and 
consequent distress were universal. The northern coun- 
tries of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden received the 
infection from England. As will be seen subsequently, 

* Hoeniger (R.), Der schwarze Tad in BeutsMand {Berlin, 1882), 
p. 26. 
' Philippe, ut sup., p. 124. • 


the northern parts of England were troubled with the 
epidemic in the late summer and autumn of 1349, and 
either from a port on the eastern coast, or from London, 
the plague was brought over in a ship. Lagerbring, a 
Swedish historian of repute, says that a ship with a 
cargo of woollen cloth sailed out of the port of London 
early in the summer of 1349/ The plague had been very 
great in the English capital, and all the crew died whilst 
the ship was at sea. Driven about by the winds and / 
currents the fatal bark was cast on the shore at Bergen, ^ 
in Norway. The epidemic spread quickly over the entire 
country. The Archbishop of Drontheim and all his 
Chapter, with one single exception, died, and the survivor 
was nominated Archbishop. Most of his suffragans were 
also carried off.' Several families who had fled from 
Bergen to avoid the infection died in the mountains to 
which they had retired. 

Another Swedish historian states that in the country 
of West-Gotland alone 466 priests were swept away by 
the plague. In that district there were then about 479 
churches, many of which were served by more than one 
priest, so that the number given may not be altogether 
improbable.' It is stated that in Norway there long 

^ Historia^ iii, 406. 

^ Finn Jonsson, HisL eccL IsUmdiae^ ii, p. 198, says that most of 
the Bishops died, and that Onnus, Bishop of Holar, in Iceland, who 
happened then to be in Norway, solus fere evasit It appears that 
the archbishopric of Nidaros, or Drontheim, at that time comprised 
seven Sees. Changes appear in six of these at this time, including 
Drontheim and Bergen ; and of Solomon, Bishop of Oslo, it is said 
that ''he was the only Bishop who survived the plague" (Gams, 
Series Episcoporum^ 336). The same account is given in the mon- 
astic chronicles of Iceland (Ftateyjarbok^ iii, p. 562). 

' Henric Jacob Sirers, Hisiorisk Beskrifning om then Pesten^ 
p. 23. 


existed what were called Find-dale — wildernesses — in 
which were unmistakable traces of cultivation, and after 
the plague there is evidence of a state of exhaustion and 
a dearth of inhabitants, which lasted for several genera- 
tions, so that forests grew where there had once been 
churches and villages. 

Some interesting particulars may be gathered about 
the town of Wisby, on the Isle of Gotland The annals 
of the Franciscan convent note that the plague raged in 
1350. In the necrology of the same house are entered 
the names of a great number of friars and many novices 
who died in this fatal year, and the comparison of one 
portion of the necrology with another, in which the 
names are collected into groups, shows that the worst 
time at Wisby was in July, August, and September, 
1350/ In all, twenty-four friars, a very large proportion 
of the convent, appear to have been carried off by the 
epidemic. In the Cathedral of Wisby five sepulchral 
slabs are still preserved with the date 1350, whilst of 
such memorials as have escaped destruction not more 
than a single one remains for any other year. 

The King of Sweden, Magnus II, in 1350 addressed 
letters patent to his people, wherein he says that " God 
for the sins of man has struck the world with this great 
punishment of sudden death. By it most of the people 
in the land to the west of our country (i>., Norway) are 
dead. It is now ravaging in Norway and Holland, and 
is approaching our kingdom of Sweden." The king 

^ Langebeck, Scriptores rerum DanUarum^ vi, 564. I am in- 
debted for much assistance in all that regards the plagtie in the 
north of Europe to Dr. Lindstrom, of the Riksmusei, Stockholm. 
He kindly examined for me the original MS. of the Franciscan 
Necrology at Wisby. 


therefore summons them to abstain on every Friday 
from all food but bread and water, or " at most to take 
only bread and ale," to walk with bare feet to their 
parish churches, and to go in procession round about the 
cemeteries attached to them, carrying with them the 
holy relics. 

In the capital of Sweden, when the plague burst upon 
the country, it is recorded that " the streets were strewn 
with corpses," and among the victims are named Hacon 
and Knut, two brothers of the king. 

Denmark and Schleswig Holstein suffered from the 
pestilence at the same time as Norway and Sweden. In 
one chronicle it is called "a most grievous plague of 
buboes ; " in another it is recorded that in the year 1350 
" a great plague and sudden death raged both in the case 
of men and in that of cattle." » The accounts of the 
Bishopric of Roskild, on the Isle of Zealand, about the 
year 1370, or twenty years after this plagfue had passed, 
show the state of universal desolation to which the 
country was reduced. Lands are described as lying idle 
and uncultivated, villages and houses desolate and unin- 
habited. Property that formerly used to bring in four 
marks, or 48 "pund," now produced only 18 "pund." 
The same story is repeated on almost every page 
throughout these long accounts." 

A few words only need now be said of the desolation 
which everywhere throughout Europe was naturally the 
consequence of the great pestilence. Of North Italy 
John of Parma writes that "at the time (1348) labourers 
could not be got, and the harvest remained on the fields, 
since there was none to gather it in." • Twenty years 

* Langebeck, ut sup.^ i, 307, 395. " /Wt/., vii, p. 2, et seqq. 

' Pezzana, Storia di Parma^ i, 52. 



after the pestilence, in 1372, it is said of Mayence that 
"it is indubitable and notorious that because of the 
terrible character of the pestilence and mortality which 
suddenly swept away labourers, copyholders {parciartos) 
and farmers, even the most robust, labourers are to-day 
few and rare, for which reason many fields remain un- 
cultivated and deserted."* Again, in 1359, Henry, 
Bishop of Constance, impropriated to the monastery of 
St. Gall, in Switzerland, the Church of Marbach and 
others, to enable the abbey " to keep up its hospitality, 
bestow alms, and fulfil its other duties," and he assigpis 
as a reason why it cannot now do this " that by the epi- 
demic or mortality of people, which by permission of 
God has existed in these parts, the number of farmers 
and other retainers of both sexes of this abbey, belong- 
ing by law of service to the said monastery, which has 
passed from this life to the Lord (has been so great) 
that many of the possessions of this monastery have re- 
mained, on account of the said death, uncultivated, and 
no proper return comes from them." " 

^ Henrictis de Hervordia, Chronicon ed. Potthast, 274. 
' Lecbner, ut sup.y p. 73. 



THE plague first attacked England in the autumn 
of 1348. It has already been pointed out that 
Northern France was suffering under the scourge in the 
summer of that year, and that in August the pestilence 
had visited Normandy and was found at Calais, then in 
possession of the English. Probably, also, at this time, 
Jersey and Guernsey, with which England was in con- 
stant communication, were decimated by the disease. 
So greatly did these islands suffer that the King's taxes, 
usually raised upon the fishing industries, could not be 
levied. " By reason," writes the English King to John 
Mautravers, the Governor, " of the mortality among the 
people and fishing folk of these islands, which here as 
elsewhere has been so great, our rent for the fishing, 
which has been yearly paid us, cannot be now obtained 
without the impoverishing and excessive oppression of 
those fishermen still left" * 

Rumours of the coming scourge reached England in 
the early summer. On August 17th, 1348, the Bishop 
of Bath and Wells, Ralph of Shrewsbury, sent letters 
through his diocese ordering *' processions and stations 
every Friday, in each collegiate, regular, and parish 
church, to beg God to protect the people from the 

^ Originalia Roll, 24 Ed. Ill, m. 2. 


pestilence which had come from the East into the neigh- 
bouring kingdom," and granting an indulgence of forty 
days to all who, being in a state of grace, should give 
alms, fast or pray, in order, if possible, to avert God's 

The " neighbouring kingdom " spoken of by the Bishop 
in his letter may be taken almost certainly to refer to 
France. From Calais it is probable that the pestilence 
was brought into England in certs^in ships conveying 
some who were anxious to escape from it. Most of the 
contemporary accounts agree in naming the coast of 
Dorsetshire as the part first infected. Thus Galfrid le 
Baker, a contemporary, says " it came first to a seaport 
in Dorsetshire, and then into the country, which it 
almost deprived of inhabitants, and from thence it 
passed into Devon and Somerset to Bristol." ' Two or 
three of the chronicles, also, more particular than the 
rest, name Melcombe Regis as the memorable spot 
where the epidemic first showed itself in England. " In 
the year of our Lord 1348, about the feast of the Trans- 
lation of St. Thomas (July 7th)," writes the author of 
the chronicle known as the Eulogium Historiarum^ who 
was a monk of Malmesbury at this time, " the cruel pes- 
tilence, terrible to all future ages, came from parts over 
the sea to the south coast of England, into a port called 
Melcombe, in Dorsetshire. This (plague) sweeping over 
the southern districts, destroyed numberless people in 
Dorset, Devon, and Somerset." * So, too, a continuation 

* B. Mus., Harl. MS, 6965, f. 132. 

' Chranicon Galfridi le Baker ^ ed. Sir E. M. Thompson, p. 98. 

' Eulogium Historiarum (ed. Rolls series), iii, p. 213. It seems 
not at all improbable that this account was written whilst the plague 
was still confined to the West of England. 


of Trivet's chronicle, taken down to the death of Ed- 
ward III by a canon of Bridlington, who was thus prob- 
ably a contemporary of the event, says that " the great 
plague came into England to the southern districts, be- 
ginning by some (ships) putting in from the sea into a 
town called Melcombe." * 

Melcombe Regis, or Weymouth, was at that time a 
port of considerable importance. In 1347-8, for ex- 
ample, it furnished Edward III, for his siege of Calais, 
with 20 ships and 264 mariners; whilst Bristol sent only 
22 ships and 608 sailors, and even London but 25 boats 
and 662 men.* This fact is of interest, not merely as 
showing the importance of Melcombe Regis as a port on 
the southern coast, but as evidence actually connecting 
the place at this very period with Calais, and, doubtless, 
with other coast towns of France. It is not at all im- 
probable that by the return of some of the Melcombe 
boats from Calais, the epidemic may have been conveyed 
into the town. No evidence is known to exist as to the 
mortality in the port itself; but an item of information 
as to the effect of the disease in the neighbourhood is 
afforded at a subsequent period. Three years after the 
plague had passed, the King, by his letters patent, for- 
bade any of the inhabitants of the island of Portland to 
leave their homes there, or, indeed, to sell any of their 
crops out of the district, " because," he says, " as we have 
learnt, the island of Portland, in the county of Dorset, 
has been so depopulated in the time of the late pestil- 
ence that the inhabitants remaining are not sufficiently 
numerous to protect it against our foreign enemies." • 

* Harl. MS. 688, f. 361. 

* Hutchins, History of Dorset (3rd cd.), ii, p. 422. 
^ Rot Pat., 26 Ed. Ill, pars 3, m. 5. 


The actual date when the pestilence first showed itself 
in Dorsetshire has been considered somewhat doubtful 
The earliest day suggested is that assigned by the monk 
of Malmesbury in his Eulogium Historiarum^ who names 
July 7th (1348) as the time when it commenced at Mel- 
combe Regis. The latest date is that given by Knighton, 
the sub- contemporary canon of Leicester, who mentions 
generally that it began in the autumn of the year 1348. 
One chronicle gives July 25th, and two others August ist, 
whilst another merely names August as the month. 
Under these circumstances, and in view of the fact that 
its arrival in England was apparently unknown to the 
Bishop of Bath and Wells, who was then in his diocese, 
in the middle of August, it seems more than likely that 
the terrible scourge did not make itself felt in the West 
of England until after the middle of that month and not 
later than its end. 

The early commencement of the disease is borne out 
by a document in the archives of the Dean and Chapter 
of Canterbury. Archbishop Strafford died on St Bar- 
tholomew's Eve, August 23rd, 1348, and before the end 
of September the Prior of Canterbury, acting with archi- 
episcopal power during the vacancy, addressed a man- 
date to the Bishop of London, as the Dean of the College 
of Bishops, to issue directions to the suffragans of Can- 
terbury to hold public processions in their respective 
dioceses to pray God's aid against " the mortality " which 
was already assuming alarming proportions.' 

The summer and autumn of 1348 were abnormally wet 
in England, and the chronicles record that from St. John 
the Baptist's Day (June 24th) to Christmas it rained 

^ Historical Manuscripts Commission^ Eighth Report^ App., 


either by night or by day with hardly an exception. In 
such a season, naturally unhealthy, the sickness, of its 
own nature most deadly, found every condition suitable 
for its rapid development. 

Starting from Melcombe Regis, the wave of contagion 
spread itself very quickly over Dorset, Devon, and Som- 
erset, with the other counties comprised in the dioceses 
of Salisbury, Exeter, and Wells. " It passed," writes 
Robert of Avesbury, the contemporary Registrar of the 
Court of Canterbury, " most rapidly from place to place, 
swiftly killing ere mid-day many who in the morning 
had been well, and without respect of persons (some few 
rich people excepted), not permitting those destined to 
die to live more than three, or at most four, days. On 
the same day twenty, forty, sixty, and very often more 
corpses were committed to the same grave." ^ In fact, 
over the West of England during the late autumn of 
1348 and the first months of the following year the 
words of the old play must have had only too true an 

One news straight came huddling on another 
Of death, and death, and death,'' 

In dealing with a case of this kind a first object is to 
control as far as possible, by means of definite statistics, 
the general and vague statements of chroniclers and 
other contemporary writers; whilst in the absence of 
such statistics lies one of the great difficulties in dealing 
with the history of the Middle Ages. Owing partly to 
the troublesome and intricate nature of the subject, as 
well as to the poverty of the material and the inherent 
dryness of such matters, modem writers have made little 

^ Di Gestis Edwardi III. (ed. Rolls series), p. 406. 


advance to a more correct knowledge of the population 
of European countries in those ages. Much, however, 
might be done. As usual, the ecclesiastical documents 
form the surest basis for any calculation, and the epis- 
copal registers enable us to arrive at actual numbers. 
Accordingly, in the present inquiry, these roisters are 
of the highest importance, and it is necessary constantly 
to recur to them, as they furnish the only means of 
arriving at any adequate knowledge of the proportion 
of the population swept away by the plague. Possibly 
the mortality may have been greater among ecclesiastics 
than among lay persons; but only from the number of 
the clergy carried off by the epidemic can an estimate 
be formed as to the number of lay people who died. 
Accordingly, in the course of this work, the mortality of 
the clergy is systematically investigated. 

To understand the nature and value of the evidence 
thus afforded as to the extent of the mortality, a few 
words of explanation are necessary. In each diocese 
there was kept by the Bishop's Registrar a list of all 
the institutions made to vacant benefices by the Bishop. 
As a rule, not only was the name of the place and of 
the out-going and the in-coming incumbent, together 
with the date expressed, but the reason of the vacancy 
was stated, whether arising from death, exchange, or 
resignation. These lists, then, for the fatal period, or 
the autumn of 1348 and the year 1349, afford some 
means of gauging the extent of the mortality among 
the clergy. It must, however, be borne in mind that 
these registers record only the institutions of the actual 
incumbents, and take no account of the larger body of 
curates and chaplains, to say nothing of the monks, 
canons, and friars of a diocese. It has been calculated 


by a recent writer that non-beneficed clergy more than 
equal in numbers the holders of benefices, and that the 
total number of institutions of a diocese may fairly be 
doubled in estimating the deaths of the clergy during 
this epidemic* These Books of Institutions, moreover, 
by furnishing the dates of the appointments made to 
various livings, afford a means of determining, at least 
approximately, the time when the plague was rife in a 
district, and even, making allowances for any delay in 
filling up the benefice, in any given place. 

Besides the special register of each diocese a series of 
official State documents, called the Patent RoUs, contdLins 
much evidence of the destructive powers of the disease. 
On these rolls, amongst every variety of public docu- 
ment, are entered royal grants, licences, and presenta- 
tions made by the Sovereign to such vacant ecclesiastical 
livings as were at the time in the royal gift These were 
ordinarily — 

(i) Benefices of which the King was by right the 

(2) Those to which he presented, as guardian of the 
sons of tenants in capite during their minority, and 

(3) Livings to which bishops and abbots of Sees and 
monasteries, then vacant, ordinarily presented. At this 
period, 1348-9, moreover, the royal presentations were 
largely augmented by the patronage attached to the alien 
religious houses existing in England, the possession of 
which, " by reason of his war with France," as the official 
phrase runs, " the King had seized into his own hands." 

* As will be seen subsequently, this estimate of Dr. Jessopp is 
certainly too low, and it is probably more correct to suppose that 
the non-beneficed clergy, including under that head the religious, 
were four times as numerous as those holding benefices. 


The evidence of the mortality among the beneficed 
clergy during the great pestilence, as witnessed by the 
entries on the patent rolls, may be here briefly sum- 
marised. In 1348, in the period from January to May, 
the King presented to 42 livings, and to 36 during the 
following four months; so that in the eight months, 
immediately before the arrival of the plague in Eng- 
land, the average number of presentations monthly was 
below ten, the previous yearly average being hardly more 
than a hundred. The roll, upon which are entered the 
grants and presentations from September to the close 
of the year, affords conclusive proof that in the last four 
months of the year 1348 death had been busy among 
those holding royal preferments. Eighty-one more livings 
had to be filled up by the Sovereign during that period. 

The patents for 1349, in the same way, occupy three 
parts, or rolls. On the first part are enrolled the pre- 
sentations from January 25th to the end of May. This 
large roll is a curiosity, since a very great part of the 
parchment record is devoted to the entry of Royal pre- 
sentations to the vacant livings, no fewer than 249 being 
recorded, as against 42 during the same period of the 
previous year. The second part roisters the livings 
filled by King Edward from June to the middle of 
September, 1349, when the number reaches the extra- 
ordinary figure of 440, as s^ainst 36 in the corresponding 
period of 1348. 

The third period, ending on January 24th, 1350, shows 
a decline in the number, although it still stands at the 
considerable total of 205. Altogether, therefore, from 
January 25th, 1349, to the same date in 1350, the King 
alone presented to 894 livings, which had become vacant 
Comparing the figures thus obtained with the normal 


period of 1348 it may be said roughly that out of the 
1,053 presentations, made by King Edward in the two 
years, at least 800 must have been due to the mortality 
caused by the great plague. This will be seen to be 
sufficiently terrible when it is remembered that, even 
allowing for the large number of presentations then in 
the hands of the King, they would form but a very 
small portion of the total number of institutions to 
vacant livings at this period. 

The whole question of statistics in their details, as 
also any special indications of the effects which followed 
upon the ravages of the plague, will be dealt with in 
subsequent chapters in order to interfere as little as 
possible with the consecutive story of the visitation 
itself. Among the presentations made by the King, in 
the autumn of this year, frequent mention is made of 
vacancies in the diocese of Sarum, in which the county 
of Dorset is situated. From October 8th, 1348, to 
January loth, 1349 — that is, in the space of three 
months — the Crown presented to no fewer than 30 
livings in the diocese. Most of these were in the county 
of Dorset, and Abbotsbury Abbey, apparently the first 
monastery attacked, and Bincombe rectory, to which 
Edward III presented on October 8th, 1348, were both 
close to Melcombe Regis, where the plague commenced 
its ravages. 

Judged merely by the few royal presentations it is 
curious to observe how closely the epidemic in this 
country clung to the rivers and water-courses. The 
neighbourhood of Blandford, for instance, must have 
suffered severely enough during the November and De- 
cember of 1348, the two Winterbournes and Spettis- 
bury, together with Blandford — all four close on the 



river Stour — losing their incumbents. To Spettisbury, 
indeed, the King presented thrice in a very short space 
of time. Even before John le Spencer, of Grimsby, to 
whom the living was granted on December 7th, could 
have been installed in his cure — in fact, probably even 
before the grant was made — he was dead, for on De- 
cember loth, only three days later, another letter patent 
is issued, upon the death of Spencer, to Adam de 
Carleton. Adam in his turn did not hold the benefice 
long, and on January 4th, 1349, Robert de Hoveden 
was appointed in his place. Nor are these the only 
instances, even among the few presentations recorded 
on the patent rolls, of Dorset incumbents following one 
another in rapid succession during the last months of 

Looking at the number of institutions in each month 
of this period, and making due allowance for the fact 
that the vacancy had probably occurred some little time 
before it was filled up, it is evident that the epidemic 
was prevalent in the county of Dorset from October, 
1348, to February, 1349, and the mortality was highest 
in December and January.* The existence of the epi- 
demic begins to be manifest in the institutions for 

* The following table will show the actual number of institutions 
in Dorsetshire for some months : — 


















October, 1348. Previously only twelve institutions are 
recorded during that year. West Chickerell, a place 
close to Weymouth, received a new incumbent on Oct- 
ober 14th, whilst to Bincombe, close by, which was then 
vacant, as is proved by the King's presentation on the 
8th of the month, no new incumbent was inducted till 
November 4th. Warmwell and Combe Kaynes, a little 
to the eastward, received new parish priests on October 
the 9th and 19th, and Dorchester, the capital, was 
attacked apparently about the same time. 

Following the indications afforded by the Bishop's 
registers the ravages of the pestilence are apparent on 
the coast early in November, when many vacancies 
begin to be noted in the coast towns. Bridport, East 
Lulworth, Tynham, Langton, and Wareham had all 
been visited by this time, whilst before the end of the 
month the epidemic had crossed the county and ap- 
peared at Shaftesbury. On December 3rd two vicarages 
in the south, quite close together, Abbotsbury and 
Portesham, received new incumbents. 

At Shaftesbury appointments were made to St. Lau- 
rence's on the 29th of November, to St Martin's on the 
loth of December, to St John's on the 6th of January, 
1349, and to St. Laurence's again on the 12th of May. 
At Wareham, the small alien priory became vacant 
before November 4th, for on that day the King ap- 
pointed a successor to Michael de Molis, lately dead,* 
and appointments were made to St Martin's, Wareham, 
on the 8th of December, to St Peter's on the 22nd of 
December, to St. John's on the 29th of May, and to 
St Michael's on the 17th of June. Three changes were 
registered as having taken place at Winterbourne St. 
^ Originalia Roll| 22 Ed. Ill, m. 4. 


Nicholas, between December 27th and May 3rd. As 
far as can be judged by the dates of these institutions 
it would appear as if a fresh outbreak of peculiar violence 
occurred towards the end of April. 

The Bridport Corporation records show that four 
bailiffs held office in 1349, in place of the usual two, on 
account of the pestilence.^ In common with most places 
in the land, Poole, which was then of sufficient import- 
ance to be called upon to furnish four ships and 94 
men for the si^e of Calais, suffered greatly from the 
pestilence, and received a considerable check to its 
prosperity. "At Poole," writes Hutchins, "a spot on 
the projecting slip of land, known as the Baiter^ is still 
pointed out as the burial-place of its victims." * And the 
same writer adds that the country did not entirely re- 
cover for the next 150 years; since, in the reign of 
Henry VIII, "Poole and other towns in Dorsetshire" 
were included in that numerous list of places whose 
desolated buildings were ordered to be restored. 

Before the close of the year 1348 the pestilence had 
spread itself far and wide in the western counties of 
England. The diocese of Bath and Wells, and that of 
Exeter, the former conterminous with the county of 
Somerset, and the latter comprising those of Devon 
and Cornwall, were infected in the late autumn of that 
year, and all over the west, as the old chronicle re- 
lates, the sickness " most pitifully destroyed people 

Indeed, so terrible had been the effect of the scourge 
among the clergy of Somerset that, as early as January 
17th, 1349, the Bishop of Bath and Wells felt himself 

^ Hist. MSS, Comm.y Sixth Report^ p. 475. 
' History of Dorset^ i, p. 5. 


constrained to address a letter of advice to his flock. 
The document is of such interest, both as evidence of the 
straits to which at that early date the diocese had been 
reduced by the excessive mortality, and for the advice 
that it contains, that it is here quoted at considerable 
length, since it proves the depth of degradation to which 
the whole religious life was reduced by the terror inspired 
by the disease. Every bond was loosed, and every ordin- 
ary ecclesiastical regulation and provision set aside, be- 
cause none could now be enforced, or, indeed, observed. 
" The contagious nature of the present pestilence, which 
is ever spreading itself far and wide," writes the Bishop, 
"has left many parish churches and other cures, and 
consequently the people of our diocese, destitute of 
curates^ and priests. And inasmuch as priests cannot be 
found who are willing out of zeal, devotion, or for a 
stipend to undertake the care of the foresaid places, and 
to visit the sick and administer to them the Sacraments 
of the Church (perchance for dread of the infection and 
contagion), many, as we understand, are dying without 
the Sacrament of Penance. These, too, are ignorant of 
what ought to be done in such necessity, and believe that 
no confession of their sins, even in a case of such need, 
is useful or meritorious, unless made to a priest having 
the keys of the Church. Therefore, desiring, as we are 
bound to do, the salvation of souls, and ever watch- 
ing to bring back the wandering from the crooked paths 
of error, we, on the obedience you have sworn to us, 
urgently enjoin upon you and command you — rectors, 
vicars, and parish priests — in all your churches, and you 
deans, in such places of your deaneries as are destitute 

^ Curates here and elsewhere is used for Rectors or Vicars, who 
had the actual cure of souls. 


of the consolation of priests, that you at once and 
publicly instruct and induce, yourselves or by some 
other, all who are sick of the present malady, or who 
shall happen to be taken ill, that in articulo mortis^ if 
they are not able to obtain any priest, they should make 
confession of their sins (according to the teaching of the 
apostle) even to a layman, and, if a man is not at hand, 
then to a woman. We exhort you, by the present letters, 
in the bowels of Jesus Christ, to do this, and to proclaim 
publicly in the aforesaid places that such confession 
made to a layman in the presumed case can be most 
salutary and profitable to them for the remission of their 
sins, according to the teaching and the sacred canons 
of the Church. And for fear any, imagining that these 
lay confessors may make known confessions so made to 
them, shall hesitate thus to confess in case of necessity, 
we make known to all in general, and to those in parti- 
cular who have already heard these confessions, or who 
may in future hear them, that they are bound by the 
precepts of the Church to conceal and keep them secret; 
and that, by a decree of the sacred canons, they are for- 
bidden to betray such confession by word, sign, and by 
any other means whatever, unless those confessing so 
desire. And (further) should they do otherwise, let such 
betrayers know that they sin most gravely, and incur the 
indignation of Almighty God and of the whole Church." 
And further to stir up the zeal of both clergy and laity 
to this work the Bishop grants ample indulgences to such 
as follow the advice here given them. 

" And since late repentance," he says " (when, for ex- 
ample, sickness compels and the fear of punishment 
terrifies) often deceives many, we grant to all our sub- 
jects, who in the time of the pestilence shall come to 


confession to priests having the keys of the Church and 
power to bind and to loose, before they are taken sick, 
and who do not delay till the day of necessity, forty 
days of indulgence. To every priest also who shall in- 
duce people to do this, and hear the confessions of those 
thus brought to confess whilst in health, we grant the 
same by the mercy of God Almighty, and trusting to 
the merits and prayers of His glorious Mother, of the 
Blessed Peter, Paul, and Andrew the Apostles, our 
patrons, and of all the Saints." 

" You shall further declare," he adds, " to all thus con- 
fessing to lay people in case of necessity, that if they re- 
cover they are bound to confess the same sins again to 
their own parish priest. The Sacrament of the Eucharist, 
when no priest can be obtained, may be administered by 
a deacon. If, however, there be no priest to administer 
the Sacrament of Extreme Unction, faith must, as in 
other matters, suffice for the Sacrament"^ 

These large derogations from the usual ecclesiastical 
practice, though consonant alike with Christian charity 
and the teaching of the Church, are resorted to only in 
cases of the direst need, and the circular letter of the 
Bishop of Bath and Wells witnesses to the extreme 
gravity of the situation throughout the diocese, as early 
as the month of January, 1349. Already, as is certain 
from the Bishop's words, the dearth of clergy had made 
itself felt, and people were dying in the county of Somer- 
set without the possibility of obtaining spiritual aid in 
their last hours, and no priests could be found to take 
the places of those who had already fallen victims to the 
disease. The list of institutions given in the register of 
Bishop Ralph of Shrewsbury shows that the mortality in 
* Wilkins, Concilia^ ii, pp. 735-6. 


that county was considerable as early as the November 
of the previous year, 1 348. 

Taking the institutions of the diocese as a guide to 
the time when the plague was most violent, and bearing 
in mind that the death would have occurred some little 
time before the institution, and that according to the 
Bishop's letter some delay had been inevitable in the 
filling up of benefices, the months when the pestilence 
was at its height in the county of Somerset would 
appear to be December, 1348, and January and February, 
1 349, although the number of institutions each month 
remains high until June. The mortality was apparently 
highest about Christmastide, 1348.^ 

The Bishop of Bath and Wells remained at his manor 
of Wiveliscombe till the worst was past in May of 1349. 
Thither came the long procession of priests to receive 
their letters of institution to vacant benefices. Day after 
day for nearly six months the work went on with hardly 
any cessation. Singly, or in twos and threes, often four 
and five, once, at least, ten together, the clergy came to 
be instituted to cures which the disease had left without 
a priest. 

How the epidemic entered into the county, and the 

^ The following is a table of the institutions in Somersetshire for 
some months : 




















course it pursued, it would be now impossible, even if it 
were profitable, to discover. In December it would 
seem to have gained a foothold in most parts of the 
county. It was at Evercreech about November 19th, and 
about a fortnight later at Castlecary and Almsford, in 
the same neighbourhood. The fact that Bridgwater, 
Clevedon, Weston-super-mare, Portishead, and Bristol 
were amongst the earliest places in the county to be at- 
tacked would almost make it appear that the contagion 
was carried to these coast towns by a boat passing up 
the Bristol Channel. This supposition, moreover, is 
somewhat confirmed, as will be seen subsequently, by the 
fact that the towns of North Devon were attacked by 
the disease almost simultaneously with those on the 
south coast, and very much about the same time as those 
of North Somerset. 

Bath suffered under the scourge in the early part of 
January, 1349, on the 9th and lOth of that month 
several institutions to livings, either in the city or the 
neighbourhood, being recorded. In the same month it 
had spread to the abbey of Keynsham, on the road be- 
tween Bath and Bristol, and its path can almost be 
traced along the line of communication between Bath 
and Wells. Thus the villages of Freshford, Twerton, 
Hardington, Holcombe, Cloford, Kilmersdon, Babing- 
ton, Compton, and Doulting, as well as several benefices 
in Wells itself, all fell vacant at this time. 

It may be said with considerable certainty that fully 
half the number of beneficed clergy fell victims to the 
disease in this diocese. Many livings were rendered 
vacant two and three times during its course; whilst a 
not inconsiderable number had four changes of incumb- 
ents within these few months. Bathampton, for example, 



had four parsons appointed in this period. At Harding- 
ton, not far from Frome, from January, 1349, to the 
middle of March, there were certainly three and perhaps 
four changes due to the disease; and at Yeovil, from the 
15th December, 1348, to the 4th February, 1349, three 
priests held the living, one after the other. 

Little or no information is forthcoming as to the re- 
ligious houses of the county at this time. Both Athelney 
and Muchelney lost their abbots, and probably also many 
of their members. The fact that the great abbey of 
Glastonbury, which previously contained within its walls 
a community of some 80 monks, is found in A.D. 1377 to 
have 44, seems to indicate that it must have suffered 
very severe losses through the epidemic. 

At Bath, in 1344, only five years before the outbreak 
of the disease, the community at the Priory consisted of 
thirty professed monks under Prior John de Ford.* A 
list on the roll of the Somerset clergy, on whom a cleri- 
cal subsidy was levied at the close of Edward the Third's 
reign, in 1377, shows that the number had been reduced 
to sixteen,' and at this number it apparently remained 
to the time of the final dissolution of the house in the 
sixteenth century.' 

It is not difHcult to understand that the plague must 
have raged with great virulence in the larger cities, where 
in those days the most elementary notions of sanitation 
were almost unknown. In the west, Bristol, of course, 
suffered severely. " There," says the sub-contemporary 

^ Bath Chartulary (Lincoln's Inn MS.), p. 1 19. This has now been 
edited for the Somerset Record Society^ and the list is given at p. 73 
of Mr. Hunt's edition. 

R. O. Clerical Subsidy (Somerset), |. 

See list given in Deputy Keeper's Report^ vii, p. 280. 


writer, Knighton, " died, suddenly overwhelmed by death, 
almost the whole strength of the town, for few were sick 
more than' three days, or two days, or even half a day." 
Nor need this be a subject of wonder when, according to 
the description of a modern writer, speaking of the city 
at this very period, the streets were very narrow ; in the 
busier parts the ground was honeycombed with cellars 
for storing wine, salt, and other merchandise, whilst re- 
fuse streamed down the centre ditch. So small was the 
distance between the houses that no vehicle was allowed 
to be used in the streets, and all goods were carried on 
pack-horses or porters, a custom which even in the seven- 
teenth century excited the wonder of Samuel Pepys.' 

"Here in Bristol," says the local historian Seyer, 
quoting an old calendar of the town, " in 1348 the plague 
raged to such a degree that the living were scarce able 
to bury the dead. The Gloucestershire men would not 
suffer the Bristol men to have access to them. At last 
it reached Gloucester, Oxford, and London ; scarce the 
tenth person was left alive, male or female. At this period 
the grass grew several inches high in High Street and 
Broad Street; it raged at first chiefly in the centre of 
the city. This pestilence came from abroad, and the 
people near the sea-coast in Dorsetshire and Devon- 
shire were first affected."* By the wholesale destruction 
of the population of this western port the same authority 
accounts for the reduction of the King's taxation of the 
city from ;f245 to £1$^- 

Lastly, in Bristol, as indeed without doubt in most 
places, the cemeteries did not long sufHce for the multi- 
tude of the dead. Of this there is an example upon the 

* W. Hunt, Historic TownSy Bristol^ p. ^^. 

' S. Seycr, Memoirs of Bristol (Bristol, 1823), ii, p. 143. 



Patent Rolls. The parson of Holy Cross de la Temple 
soon found the necessity of enlarging his graveyard. 
For this purpose he obtained half an acre adjoining the 
old cemetery, and so great and pressing was the need of 
this fresh accommodation that it was done without the 
required royal license, for which subsequently a pardon 
had to be sued from the King.' 

The diocese of Exeter, comprising the two counties of 
Devon and Cornwall, was stricken by the disease appar- 
ently about the same time as the county of Somerset* 
For eight years before 1348 the average number of 
livings annually rendered vacant in the diocese was 
thirty-six, whilst in the single month of January, 1349, 
the Bishop instituted to some thirty livings, which shows 
that death had already been busy among the clergy. 

The number of institutions in each month of the year 
points to the conclusion that the disease lingered some- 
what longer in these counties than elsewhere. It is not 
till the close of September that any great decrease in the 
number of vacancies is seen, and although probably 
b^inning in December, the height of the plague was 
not reached till March, April, and May.' 

* Rot. Pat., 23 Ed. Ill, pars 3, m. 4. 

* For information about the institutions of this diocese and other 
matters concerning Devon and Cornwall, I am indebted to the 
kindness of the Rev. Prebendary Hingeston- Randolph. 

' The following table will give the number of institutions in 
Devon and Cornwall in each month : 







Mar. April.^May. 









60 53 1 47 






Prebendary Hingeston-Randolph thus describes the 
state of the Exeter episcopal registers at this period: — 
" There is very little direct information about the Black 
Death in Bishop Grandisson's register; but there is a 
great deal of indirect information. The Registrum Cam- 
fnune^ which is wonderfully full before and after the 
fatal year, records scarcely anything during the year 
itself. The ordinary work of the diocese seems to have 
been all suspended, with a single exception. The roister 
of institutions — a separate volume — is a record of inces- 
sant and most distressing work. Its very outward aspect 
for this period tells a tale of woe. The entries are made 
hurriedly and roughly, in striking contrast with the 
neatness and regularity of the rest of the Roister. 
They are no longer grouped, as before, in years, but in 
months, and the changes in each month exceed the 
changes of a whole ordinary year, when there was no 
pestilence. The scribe leaves off the customary * vacant 
per mortemi as if he dreaded to write the fatal word. 
The clergy must have fallen by wholesale; evidently 
they were faithful, and, for their flock's sake, faced the 
foe without flinching. And, as each of them fell, another 
was ready at his Bishop's call fearlessly to fill the vacant 
place. Some incumbencies lasted but a few weeks. 
And, when all was over, the survivors were, compara- 
tively, so few that there was no small difficulty in filling 
many a subsequent vacant benefice; this result of the 
sickness is to be traced for some time after the mortality 
had ceased. 

" The Bishop never left his diocese, and the continuous 
presence of so strong, so earnest, and devoted a prelate 
must have been an unspeakable consolation and help to 
his grievously afflicted flock." 


An examination of the institutions of the diocese, in 
relation to the time when the plague visited the various 
parts of it, appears to show that it commenced almost 
simultaneously in both north and south. In North 
Devon it is found at both Northam and Alverdiscott on 
the 7th of November, at Fremington in the same district 
on the 8th, and at Barnstaple on December the 23rd. 
It is found in November at villages on the Exe, and had 
possibly also reached Exeter before the close of the 
month. In the South, the fact of the close proximity of 
the part first infected to Dorsetshire explains the course 
of the epidemic; but the early outbreak in the coast 
villages at the mouth of the estuary leading to Barn- 
staple points to the conclusion that the infection was 
brought by a ship passing up the Bristol Channel, which 
subsequently infected other towns further up on the 
Somerset shore of the passage. 

It is of interest also to note how greatly the coast 
towns generally appear to have suffered, as the contagion 
was very probably carried from one place to another by 
the fishing boats. Up some of the estuaries it would 
seem as if the passage of the disease could be traced by 
the dates of the institutions. Thus, to take one example, 
in March, 1349, there is an institution to a living at the 
mouth of the Fowey, in Cornwall ; a week later there is 
another at St Winnow's Vicarage higher up, and on 
March 22nd the sickness had reached Bodmin, at no 
great distance from the river, and a place with which, 
in all probability, the passage up the estuary of the 
Fowey would be an ordinary and usual means of 

As to the result of the sickness in the religious houses 
of the diocese some few details are known. At St. 


Nicholas', Exeter, the Prior died in March, 1349; his 
successor, John de Wye, was admitted on the 26th of 
that month, but died almost immediately. The next 
Prior was not installed until June 7th, and the house was 
found to be in a deplorable state/ So also at Pilton 
Priory two superiors died within a few weeks one of the 
other. At the alien priory of Minster, Cornwall, William 
de Huma, the Prior, was carried off by the sickness on 
26th of April, 1349, and the house was so impoverished 
by the death of tenants and labourers that it could not 
support both its members and the chaplain they were 
bound to find to do the parish work, as neither the prior 
nor his brethren spoke English, " or rather Cornish." * 

At the Cistercian Abbey of Newenham the register 
records that " in the time of this mortality or pestilence 
there died in this house twenty [monks and three lay- 
brothers, whose names are entered in other books. And 
Walter, the abbot, and two monks were left alive there 
after the sickness." * 

At the Augustinian abbey of Hartland, Roger de 
Raleghe, the abbot, died, and the proclamation of the 
election of his successor is dated i8th March, 1349. At 
Benedictine Tavistock also the abbot died, and his sue-. 

* The Prior of St James', Exeter, also died : " postea tempore 
pestilencie subito mortuus est " (Reg. Grand., i, foL 27b}. 

* Rot. Pat., 29 Ed. Ill, pars 2, m. 19. 

* B. Mus., Arund. MS. 17, fol. 55b. Oliver {Monasticon Dioecesis 
Exaniensis^ p. 359) adds: "And no fewer than 88 persons living 
within the Abbey gates." In Noakes' History of the Monastery and 
Cathedral of Worcester^ p. 94, it is said that the virulence of the 
plague of 1349 may be judged "from the fact that in the Abbey of 
Newenham, in the West of England, out of a hundred and eleven 
inmates, only the Abbot and two monks survived." No authority is 
cited by these writers." 


cessor, Richard de Esse, was taken ill after his confirma- 
tion, and, "detained by so grave a sickness," could 
not go to the King, who, on October 17th, commissioned 
Bishop Grandisson to receive his fealty.* 

At Bodmin, according to a note taken by William of 
Worcester from a register in the Church of the Friars 
Minor there, it was estimated that 1,500 persons died of 
this sickness.* Amongst these was the Vicar, whose 
successor was appointed on April 8th, 1349. The 
Augrustinian priory in the town was almost depopulated. 
The prior, John de Kilkhampton, and all his brethren 
but two were carried off by the sickness. The two sur- 
vivors, on March 17th, wrote to the Bishop saying that 
they " were left like orphans," and b^ging that he would 
provide a superior for their house at once. The next 
day, March the i8th, 1349, an inquisition was held 
under a writ of the Prince of Wales. The jury found 
that the priory was free, and that the last prior had died 
" on Friday, next after the feast of St Peter in Cathedra 
then last past " (February 27th).* 

On March 19th Bishop Grandisson wrote to the prior 
of Launceston setting forth the facts, and appointing a 
member of that house to the office. Three days later 
the mandate for his induction was issued, in the hopes 
that " by his careful watchfulness the said priory may 
recover from the calamity." * 

The plight to which the Augustinians of Bodmin were 
reduced by the disease is, after all, typical of that of 
many religious houses throughout the country. Mean- 

^ Reg. Grandisson, i, 26b. 

• IHnerarium^ ed. J. Nasmith, p. 112. 

■ Sir J. Maclean, Deanery of Trigg Minor^ i, p. 128. 

^ Reg. Grandisson, i, 26b. 


time, however, the epidemic had not confined its ravages 
to the western counties, but continued to spread the 
same desolation in every direction, as the wave of 
pestilence rolled onward over the length and breadth of 
the land. 



FOR a time the people of Gloucester strove, but in 
vain, to protect their city by prohibiting all inter- 
course with plague-stricken Bristol. The contagion 
passed from one district to another, from town to town, 
and village to village, soon involving the entire land in 
one common misfortune. " There was no city, nor town, 
nor hamlet, nor even, save in rare instances, any house," 
writes an English contemporary, " in which this plague 
did not carry off the whole, or the greater portion, of the 
inhabitants." And so great was the destruction of life 
'* that the living scarcely sufficed to tend the sick and 
bury the dead." ... In some places, on account of the 
deficiency of cemeteries, the Bishop consecrated new 
burial grounds. 

" In that time there was sold a quarter of wheat for 
I2^/., a quarter of barley for gd,^ a quarter of beans for 
&/., a quarter of oats for 6^., a lai^e ox for 40^., a good 
horse for six shillings, which formerly was worth 40 
shillings, a good cow for two shillings, and even for 
eighteenpence. And even at this price buyers were only 
rarely to be found. And this pestilence lasted for two 
years and more before England was freed from it" 

" When, by God's mercy it ceased, there was such a 
scarcity of labourers that none could be had for agricul- 



tural purposes. On account of this scarcity, women, and 
even small children, were to be seen with the plough and 
leading the waggons." * 

The rapidity with which the contagion spread from 
place to place makes it now impossible to follow its 
course with any certainty; the more so because it seems 
likely that many towns on the southern and western 
coasts became fresh starting points for the disease. 
London, in constant communication with other ports, is 
said by one contemporary to have been attacked as 
early as September 29th, 1348,' whilst other authorities 
fix, at latest, All Saints' day — November ist — as the 
date when the epidemic declared itself in London. It 
lasted in the city and its neighbourhood till about the 
feast of Pentecost next following, and, according to the 
contemporary Robert of Avesbury, it was most severe 
in the two months from February 2nd to Easter. During 
the time, he says, " almost every day there were buried 
in the new cemetery, then made at Smithfield, more 
than 200 bodies of the dead, over and above those buried 
in other cemeteries of the city." ' 

Parliament, which was to have assembled at West- 
minster in January, 1349, was at the beginning of the 
month prorogued, because, as the King says, " the plague 
of deadly pestilence had suddenly broken out in the said 
place and the neighbourhood, and daily increased in 
severity so that grave fears were entertained for the 
safety of those coming there at the time."* The church- 

^ Eulogium Historiarum (Rolls series), iii, p. 213. 
' Annales de Bermundeseia in Annates Monastici (Rolls series), 
iii, p. 475. 
' DegesHs Edwardi III, (Rolls series), p. 406. 
* Rymer, Fctdera^ v, p. 655. 


yards of the city were quickly found to be insufficient, 
and two, if not three, cemeteries were opened. Of the 
one in Smithfield referred to in the quotation already 
given from Robert of Avesbury, the historian Stowe 
gives the following account: — ^'^ In the year 1348 (23 
Edward III) the first great pestilence in his time b^an, 
and increased so sore that from want of room in church- 
yards to bury the dead of the city and of the suburbs, 
one John Corey, clerk, procured of Nicholas, prior of the 
Holy Trinity within Aldgate, one toft of ground near 
unto East Smithfield for the burial of them that died, 
with condition that it might be called * the churchyard 
of the Holy Trinity;' which ground he caused, by the 
aid of divers devout citizens, to be enclosed with a wall 
of stone. Robert Elsing,son of William Elsing,gave five 
pounds thereunto ; and the same was dedicated by Ralph 
Stratford, Bishop of London, where innumerable bodies 
of the dead were afterwards buried, and a chapel built in 
the same place, to the honour of God." Subsequently 
Edward III founded there a monastery of Cistercian 
monks dedicated to our Lady of Graces.* 

The same author also relates the establishment of the 
better-known new cemetery, where subsequently the 
Charterhouse was founded. " The churchyards," he writes 
of this time, ** were not sufficient to receive the dead, but 
men were forced to choose out certain fields for burials. 
Whereupon Ralph Stratford, Bishop of London, in the 
year 1348, bought a piece of ground, called * No man's 
land,' which he enclosed with a wall of brick and dedi- 
cated for the burial of the dead, building thereupon a 
proper chapel, which is now (j>., 1598) enlarged and 
made a dwelling-house; and this burying plot is become 
* Survey of London (ed. Strype), ii, p. 13. 


a fair garden, retaining the old name of * Pardon Church- 

"After this, in the year 1349, the said Sir Walter 
Manny, in respect of the danger that might befall in this 
time of so great a plague and infection, purchased thir- 
teen acres and a rood of ground, adjoining to the said 
* No man's land,' and lying in a place called * Spittle 
Croft,' because it belonged to St Bartholomew's Hospi- 
tal (since that called * New Church Haw '), and caused it 
to be consecrated by the said Bishop of London to the 
use of burials. 

"In this plot of ground there were (in that year) more 
than 50,000 persons buried, as I have read in the Charters 
of Edward the Third. 

" Also I have seen and read an inscription, fixed on a 
stone cross sometime standing in the same churchyard, 
and having these words: Anno Domini 1349. Regnante^ 
&c. That is in English, * A great plague raging in the 
year of our Lord 1 349, this churchyard was consecrated ; 
wherein, and within the bounds of the present monas- 
tery, were buried more than 50,000 bodies of the dead, 
besides many others from thence to the present time, 
whose souls God have mercy upon. Amen."* 

Whilst it is perfectly possible, and even probable, that 
the number 50,000, named byStowe as buried in one 
churchyard, is an exaggerated estimate, it is on the 
other hand more than likely that the pestilence found 

^ Dr. Creighton, History of Epidemics in Briiain^ p. 128, quotes 
Rickman, Abstract of the Population Returns ^1831, as estimating 
the total deaths in London at 100,000, and considers even the 
50,000 as altogether impossible. In fact, he is inclined to think that 
in 1349 the population of London "was probably not far from'' 
44,770 only. 


the sanitary condition of the London of that period very 
favourable for its rapid development. The narrow and 
ill-cleansed streets, the low, unventilated and undrained 
houses, and the general condition of living at the time 
would all favour the growth of so contagious a dis- 
ease as that which visited the city in the middle of the 
fourteenth century. One slight glimpse of the state of 
the streets about this time is afforded in a document 
issued by the King to the Mayor and Sheriffs, when in 
1 36 1 a second visitation threatened to become as de- 
structive to human life as that of 1 349. " Because," says 
the royal letter, " by the killing of great beasts, from 
whose putrid blood running down the streets and the 
bowels cast into the Thames, the air in the city is very 
much corrupted and infected, whence abominable and 
most filthy stench proceeds, sickness and many other 
evils have happened to such as have abode in the said city, 
or have resorted to it; and great dangers are feared to 
fall out for the time to come, unless remedy be presently 
made against it; we, willing to prevent such dangers, 
ordain, by consent of the present Parliament, that all 
' bulls, oxen, hogs, and other gross creatures ' be killed at 
either Stratford or Knightsbridge." * 

There are indeed many indications that the number of 
those who died in the city was very great* The extra- 

^ Brooke Lambert, London^ i, p. 241. 

' Dr. Creighton {ut sup.^ p. 129) mentions that ''in the charter 
of incorporation of the Company of Cutlers, granted in 1344, eight 
persons are named as wardens, and these are stated in a note to 
have been all dead five years after, that is to say, in the year of the 
Black Death, 1349, although their deaths are not set down to the 
plague. Again, in the articles of the Hatters' Company, which were 
drawn up only a year before the plague began (December 13, 1347) 
six persons are named as wardens, and these according to a note 



ordinary increase in the number of wills proved in the 
" Court of Hustings " affords some indication of this. 
During the three previous years the average number in 
that Court was twenty-two. In 1349 they reached the 
number of 222 ; and the wills themselves afford further 
evidence of the rapidity with which members of the 
same family followed each other to the grave. In one 
instance a son, who was appointed executor to his father's 
will, died before probate could be obtained, and his own 
will was passed through the Court together with that of 
his father.^ The number of probates granted in each 
month is some indication of the time when the mortality 
was highest. May, with a total of 121, and July, with 51, 
are the largest numbers, whilst it is curious to observe 
that the large number in May is accounted for by the 
fact that none were proved in April." It may be sur- 
mised that this was brought about by the complete 
paralysis of all business about the month of April in 
consequence of the sickness; this view being strength- 
ened by the fact that no Easter sittings of the Courts of 
Justices were held. 

of the time were all dead before the 7tb of July, 1350, the cause of 
the mortality being again unmentioned, probably because it was 
familiar knowledge to those then living. It is known also that four 
wardens of the Goldsmiths' Company died in the year of the Black 

* Calendar of Wills in the Court of Hustings^ London^ ed. 
R. R. Sharpe, i, p. xxvii. 

' The following is a table of the numbers : 















Westminster was grievously visited by the sickness. 
On March loth, 1349, in proroguing the Parliament for 
the second time, the King declared that the pls^^e had 
increased in Westminster and London more seriously 
than ever.' Some weeks later the great monastery was 
attacked ; early in May abbot Bircheston died, and at 
the same time twenty-seven of his monks were com- 
mitted to a common g^ave in the southern walk of the 
cloister. To relieve the urgent necessities of the house 
and those about it, jewels and other ornaments to the 
value of £31$ 13s. Zd, — a laige sum in those days — 
were sold during the visitation out of the monastic 

At Westminster, too, the Hospital of St James was 
left without inmates. *' The then guardian and all the 
other brethren and sisters, except one," had died ; and 
in May, 1349, William de Weston, the survivor, was ap- 
pointed guardian. Charged with dilapidation, he was 
deposed in 1 351, but in 1353 the house still remained 
without inmates.' 

What happened at St Albans has been recorded by 
Walsingham in the Gesta Abbatum. Speaking of abbot 
Michael Mentmore, he writes: "The pestilence, which 
carried oif well-nigh half of all mankind, coming to St 
Albans, he was struck by a premature death, being 
touched by the common misery amongst the first of his 
monks, who were carried off by the deadly disease. And 
although on Maundy Thursday («>., Thursday in Holy 
Week) he felt the beginning of the ailment, still out of 
devotion to the feast, and in memory of our Lord's humi- 

' Rymer, Fcedera^ v, p. 658. 

* B. Mus. Cotton MS. VitelL E. xiv, f. 129b. 

' R. O., L. T. R. Memoranda Roll, 25 Ed. Ill, m. 26. 


lity, he celebrated solemnly the High Mass, and after 
that, before dinner, humbly and reverently washed the 
feet of the poor. Then, after partaking of food, he washed 
and kissed the feet of all the brethren. And all the 
offices of that day he performed alone and without 

" On the morrow, the sickness increasing, he betook 
himself to bed, and like a true Catholic, having made, 
with contrite heart, a sincere confession, he received the 
Sacrament of Extreme Unction. And so in sorrow and 
sadness he lasted till noon of Easter-Day. 

" And because the plague was then raging, and the air 
was corrupt, and the monks were dying day by day," he 
was buried as quickly as possible. " And there died at 
that time, forty-seven monks over and above those who 
were carried off in great numbers, in (the monasteries 
which are) the cells (of St. Albans)."' 

In another place the same writer adds: •**By God's 
permission came the pestilence which swept away such 
numbers. Amongst the abbots was Dom Michael of 
pious memory, abbot of St Albans. At that same time 
the prior of the monastery, Nicholas, and the sub-prior 
of the place also died. By the advice, therefore, of those 
learned in the law the convent chose Dom Thomas de 
Risburgh, professor of Holy Scripture, as prior of the 

From the date of the death of the abbot of St. Albans, 
on April the 12th, 1349, it would appear that the 
epidemic was then at its height in that part of Hertford- 
shire. The institutions for the portion of the county in 
the diocese of Lincoln, however, show that it must have 

* Gesta Abbatum S, Albani (Rolls series), ii, p. 369. 
' Ibid., p. 381. 




lingered on, at any rate in the northern part, till the late 

" In Hertfordshire Manors," writes Mr. Thorold 
Rogers, "where it («>., the great plague of 1349) was 
specially destructive, it was the practice, for thirty years, 
to head the schedule of expenditure with an enumeration 
of the lives which were lost and the tenancies which were 
vacated after 1348."* 

The neighbouring counties of Bedfordshire, Bucking- 
hamshire, and Berkshire suffered in the same way. Al- 
though the chronicles make no special mention of the 
ravages of the epidemic in them, it would, indeed, from 
other sources of information, appear that during the first 
half of 1349 the mortality in this district was as great as 
in most other parts of the country. Thus, the general 
state of the country after the plague had passed may be 
illustrated from a class of documents known as Inguisi- 
tiones post mortem. Theoretically, at least, the whole 
country belonged to the Sovereign ; the actual possessors 
holding as tenants of the Crown, just as the smaller 
farmers and peasants held from the tenant in capite. On 
the death of landowners, therefore, the Crown exercised 
certain rights and claimed certain dues, which it levied 
on the estates, the King's officers holding them until the 

' The following is a table of the Institutions given in Clutterbuck's 
Hertfordshire \ 














Six Centuries of Work and IVages, i, p. 225. 


rights of the Sovereign over the in-coming heir were 
satisfied. To secure these in each county, an official was 
appointed known as the Escheator, whose duty it was, 
on the death of any landowner, in response to the King's 
writ, to summon a jury bound by oath to inquire into, 
and testify to, the extent and value of the land held by 
the deceased person. The record of their sworn verdict 
is known as the Inquisitio post mortem. 

These returns made into the King's Court of Chancery 
even as they now exist — many of them having been lost, 
or having otherwise disappeared — show a great increase 
in number in the year 1349. The average number of 
these inquisitions for the two years, 1346 and 1347, is 
less than 120; in 1348 there are 130, whilst in 1349 
there still exist 311 such records. That the number was 
very considerably more than this appears from the entry 
of the writs to the various Escheators upon the " Ori- 
ginalia Roll" for 1349. From this source it may be 
gathered that the number of writs issued by the King 
upon information of the death of landed proprietors was 
619. Sometimes several such writs are addressed at one 
time to the Escheator to inquire into many deaths in the 
same place.^ 

These records afford evidence of the numbers of land- 
owners swept off by the scourge, but their special value 
lies in the testimony they afford to the state of various 
manors and holdings examined in regard to their value 
after the plague had abated. The smaller tenants paying 
rent or performing land services were, of course, the 
chief element in the value of an estate, and especially 

^ Thus, some eight standing on the roll together direct inquiries 
into deaths of various landed proprietors at Homseaburton, in 
Holdemess, R. O., Originalia Roll, 23 Ed. Ill, m. 17. 


where the land was in common^ as was generally the case, 
empty farmsteads and cottages meant a proportional 
decrease in the yearly value. 

Thus, to take some examples of the evidence of the 
epidemic in this district Of the manor of Sladen in 
Buckinghamshire, not far from Berkhampstead, a jury, 
about the beginning of August, 1349, declared upon 
oath that the mill was of no value, since the miller was 
dead, and there were no tenants left to want any com 
ground, " because of the mortality." The rents derived 
hitherto from the free tenants, natives of the soil and 
cottagers, had been £12 sl year, now it is declared that 
there are no tenants at all and that the land is lying 
untilled and useless. On the whole manor one little 
cottage, with a strip of land, held by one John Robyns 
on a service rent worth seven shillings a year, was 
apparently all that was considered to be worth anything. 
At another place on the same estate all the tenants and 
cottars except one were dead, and at a third not one had 

In Bedfordshire, by the end of May, 1349, the same 
tale is told. A cloth mill on the manor of Storington is 
said to be idle and worthless, and the reason assigned is 
that '' it stands empty through the mortality of the 
plague, and there is no one who wishes to use it or 
rent it for the same reason." Land, too, is described as 
lying uncultivated, and woods cannot be sold because 
there is no one to buy." 

In Berkshire, in July, 1349, on a manor belonging to 
the Husee family the rents and services of the natives of 
the soil, " now dead," which were formerly worth thirty- 

' R. O., Chancery Inq. post mortem, 23 Ed. Ill, No. 85. 
» /JiV/., No. 75. 



two shillings a year, are declared to be without any 
value at all, because, as the Inquisition says, " there is no 
one willing to buy or to hire the land of the said dead 
tenants," and since the land lay all in common it could 
not be cultivated, and was thus useless.^ In the same 
way, on the manor of Crokham, which had belonged to 
Catherine, wife of the Earl of Salisbury, even as early as 
April 23rd of this year the free tenant and other 
holders, who had paid yearly ;£'i3, were all dead, and no 
tenants could be got to take up their lands.* In other 
places there are no Court fees, no services performed, 
and no mills used, because all on the land are dead; 
houses and tenements also are in hand, and rents every- 
where are either reduced or are nothing at all, because 
some or all of those who held the lands and cottages 
have been swept away.' 

The institutions for the county of Buckinghamshire 
show that in the year 1349* there were eighty-three 
appointments made to vacant livings. This is slightly 
less than half the total number of benefices in the county, 
which appears to have been 1 80. From the appointments 
that are dated it appears probable that the sickness was 
at its worst in the county in the months from May to 
September, 1349/ 

^ R. O., Chancery Inq. post mortem, 23 Ed. HI, No. 77. 
^ Ibid, (second numbers), No. 58. 

' Cf. four inquisitions in this county: Escheator's Inq. post 
mortem, file 103. 

* See Lipscombe's History of Buckinghamshire, 
' The following is a table of the dated institutions : 













3 ! ' 


On the other side of Lx>ndon, the dioceses of Canter- 
bury and Rochester divided between them the county of 
Kent The Archbishop had jurisdiction over the south- 
eastern portion with its long h'ne of coast stretching 
from the Medway to the boundaries of Sussex. The 
diocese of Rochester included the western portion of 
Kent, which lies on the southern bank of the Thames 
from London to Sheemess. The diocese of Canterbury 
was in many respects peculiarly exposed to the chances 
of contagion. In it were situated both Dover and 
Sandwich, the two chief points of communication with 
the ports of France, and through the city of Canterbury 
passed the main line of road between the coast and 

Thrice, within a few months, the Archiepiscopal See 
was deprived by death of its ruler; and one, at least, of 
these, and very probably two, died of the prevailing 
sickness. The register of the prior and convent of 
Christchurch, Canterbury, during the vacancy, shows 
that institutions to livings in the diocese followed one 
another in rapid succession, and that deaths must have 
occurred in a large proportion of the benefices of this 
part of England.* "In the year of our Lord, 1348, im- 
mediately after the close of the Nativity," writes Stephen 
Birchington, in his history of the Archbishops of Canter- 
bury, " arrived the common death of all people; and it 
lasted continuously till the end of the month of May, in 
the year 1349. By this pestilence barely a third part of 
mankind were left alive. Then, also, there was such a 
scarcity and dearth of priests that the parish churches 
remained almost unserved, and beneficed persons, through 

^ Hist AfSS. Comm.^ Eighth Report^ p. 336. 


fear of death, left the care of the benefices, not knowing 
where to go." * 

At Canterbury itself there is some evidence of the 
epidemic. The abbot of St. Augustine's had died of 
the disease at Avignon; but no information has been 
preserved of what took place at the monastery itself, 
although the fact that abbot Thomas asked for and 
obtained from Pope Clement VI dispensations, "on 
account of defect of birth," for six monks, whom he 
desired to have ordained at this time, makes it more 
than probable that the pestilence had carried off many 
members of the community, whose places it was neces- 
sary to fill. 

At Christchurch only four of the community died at 
the time, and this comparative immunity has been as- 
cribed to the excellent water supply obtained a century 
before for the monastery from the hills.' Later on in the 
summer, however, when the new abbot of St. Albans 
rested at Canterbury, on his way to the Pope at Avignon, 
one of the two companions whom he had with him died 
of the sickness there.' In the city, also, two masters 
were appointed to the Hospital of Eastbridge, one 
quickly after the other. The prioress of St. Sepulchre's 
and the prior of St. Gr^ory's both died; but we can 
only suspect what happened in the communities at this 
anxious time, and among the people at large. At Sand- 
wich, in the June of 1349, the plague was still raging. 
The old cemetery was full to overflowing, and the suf- 
fragan bishop was commissioned to proceed thither and 

^ Wharton, Anglia Sacra^ i, p. 42. 

■ J. E. Thorold Rogers, Six Centuries of Work and Wages^ 
i, p. 231. 
^ Gesta AbhaHitn (Rolls series). 


consecrate a new piece of ground, given for the purpose 
by the Earl of Huntingdon.* 

One example may be given here of the rapidity with 
which during the great sickness members of a family 
followed one another to the grave. Sir Thomas Dene, 
of Ospring, about three miles from Faversham, in the 
northern part of the diocese of Rochester, died on May the 
1 8th, 1 349. At the time of his death he had four daughters 
— Benedicta, five years old, Mai^^aret, four years, and 
Martha and Joan, younger still. By July the 8th Martha, 
the wife of Sir Thomas, had also died, and from the 
inquisition, taken on Monday, the 3rd of August, 1349, it 
appears that of the children the two youngest were now 
also dead. Thus, out of a family of six, the father, mother, 
and two children had been carried off by the disease.* 

In this second half of the county of Kent, which forms 
the diocese of Rochester, the sickness was felt as severely 
as in the Canterbury diocese. What happened here is 
told in the account of William Dene, a monk of Roch- 
ester, and a contemporary of the events he describes. "A 
plague such as never before had been heard of," he writes, 
" ravaged England in this year. The Bishop of Roch- 
ester, out of his small household lost four priests, five 
gentlemen, ten serving men, seven young clerks, and six 
pages, so that not a soul remained who might serve him 
in any office. At Mailing (a Benedictine nunnery) he 
blessed two abbesses, and both quickly died, and there 
were left there only four professed nuns and four novices. 
To one of these the Bishop committed the charge of the 
temporals, to another that of the spirituals, because no 
proper person for abbess could be found." 

» Hist AfSS. Comm.f Eighth Report^ p. 336. Batteley's copy of 
this commission is in B. Mus. Add. MS., 22665, ^^^ 1^3- 
* Escheator's Inq. p.m«, 23 £dw. Ill, Kent 


" The whole of this time," says the writer in another 
place, " the Bishop of Rochester remained at Hailing * 
and TrottersclifT,' and he conferred orders in both places 
at certain intervals. Alas, for our sorrow! this mortality 
swept away so vast a multitude of both sexes that none 
could be found to carry the corpses to the grave. Men 
and women bore their own offspring on their shoulders 
to the church and cast them into a common pit. From 
these there proceeded so great a stench that hardly 
anyone dared to cross the cemeteries." 

The chronicler calls attention, in the most distinct 
terms, to a fact mentioned by Birchington of Canter- 
bury, and touched on by the Bishop of Bath and Wells 
(p. 93), namely, that dread of the contagion interfered 
even with the exercise of priestly functions. These are, 
perhaps, the only cases in England which recall the 
terrible and uncontrollable fear which in Italy issued in 
an abandonment of all principle. 

Again, he says: ''In this pestilence many chaplains 
and paid clerics refused to serve, except at excessive 
salaries. The Bishop of Rochester, by a mandate ad- 
dressed to the archdeacon of Rochester, on the 27th of 
June, 1349, orders all these, on pain of suspension, to 
serve such cures;"' "and some priests and clerics refuse 
livings, now vacant in law and fact," writes the Bishop, 
"because they are slenderly provided for; and some, 
having poor livings, which they had long ago obtained, 
are now unwilling to keep them, because their stipend, 
on account of the death of their parishioners, is so 

^ Some six miles from Rochester. 

' Nine miles from Maidstone. 

• Wharton, Anglia SacrOy i, pp. 375-6. This is an abstract of 
Dene's account in the Rochester cartulary, B. Mus., Cotton MS., 
Faust B. V, ff. 96 «/ seqq. Cf, also Vitell. £. xiv, ff. 375 et seqq. 


notoriously diminished that they cannot get a living and 
bear the burden of their cure. It has accordingly 
happened that parishes have remained unserved for a 
long time, and the cure attached to them has been aban- 
doned, to the great danger of souls. We, desiring to 
remedy this as soon as possible, by the present letters 
permit and grant special leave to all rectors and vicars 
of our city and diocese instituted, or hereafter to be in- 
stituted, to such slender benefices as do not produce a 
true revenue of ten marks sterling a year, to receive 
during their poverty an anniversary mass, or such a num- 
ber of masses as may bring their stipends to this annual 

Then after noting that the Archbishop of Canterbury, 
Thomas Bradwardine, had died in the Bishop of Roches- 
ter's palace in London, William Dene continues: "So 
great was the deficiency of labourers and workmen of 
every kind in those days that more than a third of the 
land over the whole kingdom remained uncultivated. 
The labourers and skilled workmen were imbued with 
such a spirit of rebellion that neither king, law, nor 
justice could curb them. The whole people for the 
greater part ever became more depraved, more prone to 
every vice, and more inclined than before to evil and 
wickedness, not thinking of death, nor of the past plague, 
nor of their own salvation. . . . And priests, little weigh- 
ing the sacrifice of a contrite spirit, betook themselves to 
places where they could get larger stipends than in their 
own benefices. On which account many benefices re- 
mained unserved, whose holders would not be stayed by 
the rule of their Ordinary. Thus, day by day, the 
dangers to soul both in clergy and in people multiplied." 
> B. Mus. Faust B., v, f. 98. 


'* Throughout the whole of that winter and spring the 
Bishop of Rochester, an old and decrepit man, remained 
at Trotterscliff, saddened and grieving over the sudden 
change of the age. And in every manor of the Bishopric 
buildings and walls fell to ruins, and that year there was 
hardly a manor which returned a hundred pounds. In 
the monastery of Rochester, also, there was such a 
scarcity of provisions that the community were troubled 
with great want of food; so much so that the monks 
were obliged to grind their own bread." The prior, how- 
ever, adds the writer, always lived well. William Dene 
also relates much that will come under consideration 
when the results of the great pestilence are dealt with. 
Here, however, it may be noted that he speaks of " the 
Bishop visiting the abbey of Mailing and the monastery 
of Lesnes," when he found them so poor "that, as is 
thought, from the present age to the Day of Judgment 
they can never recover." Moreover, he notes that Simon 
Islip, on the day of his enthronisation as Archbishop of 
Canterbury, did not keep the feast, as was usual, with 
great display, but to avoid all expense kept it simply 
with the monks in their refectory at Christchurch.* 

To this account of the state of the diocese of Roches- 
ter, written at the time, it is only necessary to add that 
the number of benefices in this portion of Kent was 
some 230, which will serve as some indication of the 
number of clergy carried off by the prevailing sickness. 

The diocese of Winchester includes the two counties 
of Surrey and Hampshire and the Isle of Wight. On the 
24th of October, 1348, Bishop Edyndon, the occupant of 
the See, addressed a letter to his clergy ordering prayers.* 

^ B. Mus. Faust B., v, fol. 99. 

^ For the use of his transcripts of the Bishop's Register, as well 


It bears upon it the stamp of the horror which had 
seized upon the minds of all by reason of the reports 
now coming to hand of what had taken place in other 
countries. " William, by Divine providence, Bishop," he 
writes, " to the prior and chapter of our Church of Win- 
chester, health, grace, and benediction. A voice in Rama 
has been heard ; much weeping and crying has sounded 
throughout the various countries of the globe. Nations, 
deprived of their children in the abyss of an unheard-of 
plague, refuse to be consoled because, as is terrible to 
hear of, cities, towns, castles, and villages, adorned with 
noble and handsome buildings, and wont up to the pre- 
sent to rejoice in an illustrious people, in their wisdom 
and counsel, in their strength, and in the beauty of their 
matrons and virgfins ; wherein, too, every joy abounded, 
and whither multitudes of people flocked from afar for 
relief; all these have already been stripped of their 
population by the calamity of the said pestilence, more 
cruel than any two-edged sword. And into these said 
places now none dare enter, but fly far from them as 
from the dens of wild beasts. Every joy has ceased in 
them; pleasant sounds are hushed, and every note of 
gladness is banished. They have become abodes of 
horror and a very wilderness; fruitful country places, 
without the tillers, thus carried off, are deserts and aban- 
doned to barrenness. And, news most grave which we 
report with the deepest anxiety, this cruel plague, as we 
have heard, has already begun singularly to afllict the 
various coasts of the realm of England. We are struck 
with the greatest fear lest, which God forbid, the fell 
disease ravage any part of our city and diocese. And 

as for assistance in all that relates to the Winchester diocese, I am 
indebted to the kindness of F. J. Baigent, Esq., of Winchester. 


although God, to prove our patience, and justly to punish 
our sins, often afflicts us, it is not in man's power to 
judge the Divine counsels. Still, it is much to be feared 
that man's sensuality, which, propagated by the tendency 
of the old sin of Adam, from youth inclines all to evil, 
has now fallen into deeper malice and justly provoked 
the Divine wrath by a multitude of sins to this chastise- 

" But because God is loving and merciful, patient, and 
above all hatred, we earnestly beg that by your devo- 
tion He may ward off from us the scourge we have 
so justly deserved, if we now turn to Him humbly with 
our whole heart We exhort you in the Lord, and in 
virtue of obedience we strictly enjoin you to come before 
the face of God, with contrition and confession of all 
your sins, together with the consequent due satisfaction 
through the efficacious works of salutary penance. We 
order further that every Sunday and Wednesday all of 
you, assembled together in the choir of your monastery, 
say the seven penitential psalms, and the fifteen gradual 
psalms, on your knees, humbly and devoutly. Also on 
every Friday, together with these psalms, we direct that 
you chant the long litany, instituted against pestilences 
of this kind by the holy Fathers, through the market- 
place of our city of Winchester, walking in procession, 
together with the clergy and people of the said city. 
We desire that all should be summoned to these solemn 
processions and urged to make use of other devout 
exercises, and directed to follow these processions in 
such a way that during their course they walk with heads 
bent down, with feet bare, and fasting; whilst with pious 
hearts they repeat their prayers and, putting away vain 
conversation, say, as often as possible, the Lord's Prayer 


and Hail Mary. Also that they should remain in earnest 
prayer to the close of the Mass, which at the end of the 
procession we desire you to celebrate in your church." 
The Bishop then concludes by granting indulgences to 
those who approach the Sacrament of Confession, and 
shall in these public devotions pray that God ''may 
cause the severity of the plague to be stayed." * 

On the same day, October 24th, 1348, Bishop Edyn- 
don issued other mandates to his clergy generally, and 
to the archdeacon of Surrey in particular. He charges 
them to see that, in view of the terrible plague which 
was approaching, all are exhorted to frequent the 
Sacrament of Penance and to join in the public prayers 
and processions to be made with bare feet in towns 
through the market-places, and in villages in the ceme- 
teries round about the churches. 

On November 17th, on the nearer approach of the 
epidemic, the Bishop granted faculties to absolve from 
all reserved cases, reminding his people of "the approved 
teaching of the holy Fathers, that sickness and prema- 
ture death often come from sin ; and that by the heal- 
ing of souls this kind of sickness is known to cease." 
To guard against any possible danger of cloistered nuns 
being left by the death of their chaplains without con- 
fessors, he at the same time sent to every abbess and 
superior of religious women in his diocese permission to 
appoint two or three fit priests, to whom he gave facul- 
ties to hear the confessions of the nuns.' 

Before Christmas time the sickness was already in the 

diocese, although it was only b^inning. On the 19th of 

January, 1349, Bishop Edyndon wrote to his official that 

he had good tidings to announce — tidings which he had 

^ Reg. Edyndon, ii, foL 17. " Ihid^ AT. lyb-iS. 


received with joy — ^that " the most holy father in Christ, 
our lord the Supreme Pontiff, had in response to the 
petition of himself and his subjects, on account of the 
imminent great mortality, granted to all the people of 
the diocese, religious and secular, ecclesiastic and lay, 
who should confess their sins with sincere repentance to 
any priest they might choose — a plenary indulgence at 
the hour of death if they departed in the true faith, in 
unity with the holy Roman Church, and obedience and 
devotion to our lord the Supreme Pontiff and his suc- 
cessors the Roman Bishops." The Bishop consequently 
ordered that this privilege should be made known to all 
as quickly as possible.^ 

At Winchester, as at this time in other places, diffi- 
culties about the burial of the dead who were carried off 
by the pestilence soon arose. By January many bene- 
fices in the city had been rendered vacant, and without 
doubt the daily death-roll was becoming alarming. The 
clergy for many reasons were desirous of restricting 
burials to the consecrated cemeteries, but a party of the 
citizens had clearly made up their minds that in such an 
emei^ency as the present the ordinary rules and laws 
should be, and must be, set aside. In order, apparently, 
the better to enforce their views they set upon and 
seriously wounded a monk of St. Swithun's, who was 
conducting a funeral in the usual burial place. The 
Bishop took a serious view of the offence. On January 

^ Reg. Edyndon, ii, fol. 19. The Indulgence was to last until 
Easter, but the time was subsequently extended to the feast of 
St. Michael. This extension was notified from Avignon by letter 
dated 28th April, 1349; the Pope here granted the extension verb- 
ally. On 25th May, Bishop Edyndon sent out the announcement 
of the extension, and ordered it to be made known at once. 


the 2 1 St, 1349, he addressed an order to the prior of 
Winchester and the abbot of Hyde ordering sermons to 
be preached on the Catholic doctrine of the resurrection 
of the flesh, and excommunication to be denounced 
against those who had laid violent hands upon brother 
Ralph de Staunton, monk of Winchester. " The Catholic 
Church spread over the world," he says, " believes in the 
resurrection of the bodies of the dead. These have been 
sanctified by the reception of the Sacraments, and are 
hence buried, not in profane places, but in specially 
enclosed and consecrated cemeteries, or churches, where 
with due reverence they are kept, like the relics of the 
Saints, till the day of the resurrection." Winchester, he 
continues,should set an example to the whole diocese,and 
above other places ought to reflect the brightness of the 
Catholic Faith. Some people there, however, not, he 
thanks God, citizens, or even those born in the city (who 
are wont to be conspicuous in their upright lives and in 
their devotion to the Faith), but low class strangers and 
degenerate sons of the Church, lately attacked brother 
Ralph de Staunton whilst burying in the appointed 
place, and when by his habit and tonsure they knew him 
to be a monk, beat him and prevented him from con- 
tinuing to bury the dead amongst those there waiting 
for the resurrection. Thinking, therefore, that mischief 
was likely to ensue in regard to the true Catholic belief 
in the resurrection of the dead, he orders the doctrine to 
be preached in the churches of Winchester. From all 
this it is quite evident that the crisis had brought to the 
surface, as it had previously done in Italy, a denial of 
the first principles of the Catholic Faith. 

Bishop Edyndon further adds that seeing that "at 
this time " the multitude of the faithful who are dying 


is greater than ever before, provision should be made 
" that the people of the various parishes may have 
prompt opportunity for speedy burial," and that the 
old cemeteries should be enlarged and new ones dedi- 

This, however, did not end the difficulties. On the 
13th of February, 1349, letters were directed by the King 
to the abbot of Hyde, John de Hampton, Robert de 
Popham, and William de Fyfhide,' ordering them to 
hear and determine a complaint made by the Venerable 
Father, William de Edyndon, Bishop of Winchester, 
concerning the breaking down of walls and other boun- 
daries of the enclosure, whereon the abbey of Hyde 
formerly stood, adjoining the cemetery of the Cathedral 
church of St. Swithun's, Winchester, which had been 
granted to the priory by the King, Henry I, on the 
removal of the abbey. It appears from the document 
that " the Mayor, bailiffs, and citizens had entered upon 
the usurped portions of the said land, and employed the 
site thereof to hold a market twice in the week and a 
fair twice in the year." By this " the bodies of the dead 
had been iniquitously disturbed, because, owing to the 
great mortality and pestilence of late, and the smallness 
of the parochial burial grounds, the Bishop, in the exer- 
cise of his office, had consecrated the said ground, and 
many interments had taken place in it." The Commis- 
sioners, or two or three of them, are directed to view 
the said area, cemeteries, and closes, "to empanel a 

^ Reg. Edyndon, i, fol. 19b. 

' Any doubt about the pestilence to which this letter refers is 
removed by the dates of the deaths of these last two named. John 
de Hampton died 4th August, 1356, and William Fyfhide on i8th 
May, 1361. 




jury, and to examine evidence and generally to try the 
case." ' 

Taking the dates of the institutions to livings in the 
county of Hampshire ' as some indication of the period 
when the deaths were most frequent, it would appear 
that the height of the plague was reached in the months 
of February, March, and April, 1349. In one month. 
May, indeed, the number of benefices filled was more 
than double the average of the whole twelve months of 
any of the three previous years. 

In the county of Surrey, March, April, and May were 
apparently the worst months; and in the last named the 
number of clergy instituted to vacant livings was double 
that of the previous yearly average. ' 

* Winchester Cathedral Archives, Book ii. No. 80. In Book i. 
No. 120, is an "Exemplification of the record and proceedings by 
the Bishop of Winchester against the Mayor and others concerning 
the limits and boundaries of the churchyard, where the Abbey of 
Hyde once stood, called the cemetery of St Peter," Anno 23 
Ed. Ill (1349). 

' The following table will give the Institutions for Hants : 























' Table of Institutions for Surrey : 





















Some districts were affected more than others. Thus 
in the deanery of Basingstoke, in the north of Hamp- 
shire, at one time or other, and chiefly in the month of 
March, by far the greater proportion of benefices fell 
vacant. On the western side of the county several insti- 
tutions are made in February, and a considerable number 
in March. Ivychurch priory, in Wiltshire, where the 
prior died on February 2nd, and all the rest of the 
community but one quickly followed him to the grave, 
is situated close to the boundaries of Hampshire, and an 
institution was made to a living not far distant on 
February the 7th. One of the earliest vacancies was 
Fordingbridge vicarage, also not far from Wiltshire, 
which appointment was made on the 21st of December, 
1348. Only two days later there was apparently the first 
begrinning of the plague at Southampton. The southern 
coast of the county generally round about Portsmouth 
and Hayling island suffered chiefly in April and March, 
and in the later month are recorded numerous institu- 
tions to livings in the Isle of Wight and in the country 
between the southdowns and the sea. On January the 
14th, 1349, a new vicar was appointed to Wandsworth 
by Bishop Edyndon, " because to our pastoral office it 
belongs," he says, " to have charge of the churches, and 
to provide for the needs and wants, especially whilst the 
present mortality among men continues to rage." * 

The ordinations held by Bishop Edyndon are further 
indications of the havoc wrought in the diocese of Win- 
chester by the pestilence. In each of the two years 1 349, 
1350, disregarding the usual Ember week, he held six 
public ordinations as well as many private ones. On 
March 5th, 1 349, a candidate was ordained per saltum to 
^ Reg. Edyndon, i, foL 38. 



the priesthood, and there are instances of two orders 
being conferred on the same candidate on the same day. 
The numbers at the usual ordinations leapt up from $7 
in March, 1347, to 158 in March, 1349.* 

The friars who mostly lived amid the denser popula- 
tions of our cities suffered naturally from the scourge 
even more than others. The Hampshire friaries appar- 
ently received a staggering blow, which is manifested in 
the presentations of subjects for ordination. The Austin 
Friars of Winchester, who had sent four of their number 
to be ordained priests between September, 1346, and 
June, 1348, next presented two, and that only in 1358. 
The Franciscans had two houses at Winchester and 
Southampton. For these, three were ordained inji347 
and 1348, but until Bishop Edyndon's death in 1359, 
only two more were presented. The Dominicans of 
Winchester in the same way could only manage to pre- 
sent one friar for the priesthood in the ten years which 
followed the great plague. 

Mr. F. J. Baigent, who for many years has made the 
episcopal registers and other muniments of the diocese 
of Winchester his special study, writing of the effects of 

' Dr. Cox in the "Ecclesiastical History** contributed to the 
Victorian Counfy History for Hampshire, i, p. 34, has given the 
following table of ordinations : 






March, 1347 






March, 1348 






March, 1349 







this great epidemic, says : " We have no means of ascer- 
taining the actual havoc occasioned among the religious 
houses of this diocese . . . but in the hospital of San- 
down, in Surrey, there existed not a single survivor, and 
of other religious houses in the diocese (which comprises 
only two counties) there perished no fewer than 28 
superiors, abbots, abbesses, and priors." 

Of Sussex, the adjoining county to Hampshire, which 
is conterminous with the diocese of Chichester, the loss 
of the episcopal registers makes it difficult to speak with 
certainty as to the number of clergy swept off by the 
pestilence or as to its effect upon the religious houses. 
It is certain, however, that the disease was not less 
virulent here than in other places about which definite 
information is obtainable. 

At Winchelsea the King, in the year of the plague, 
1349, granted to John de Scarle, the parson, a messuage 
to the east of the cemetery of the church, which formerly 
belonged to Matilda Lycotin, who had died without 
leaving any heirs. " Out of devotion to St Thomas," the 
King gives this house to the church for a rectory house 
for ever.* That the town suffered considerably seems 
clear from the fact that in this year, 1349, "ninety-four 
places in the said town lie together deserted and unin- 
habited."* And both here and at Rye the bailiffs 
claim that in 1354 they have not received £S is. out of 
£n 17s. 5^., supposed to be due from them, for taxes 
on these towns, " because so many houses are destroyed 
and lie desolate there." ' 

Incidentally it is known that John de Waring, abbot 

* R. O., Originalia Roll, 23 Ed. Ill, m. 37. 

* Pipe Roll, 23 Ed. Ill, m. 23. 

"" R. O., L. T. R. Memoranda Roll, 28 Ed. III. 


of Boxgrove, died some time before May 20th, on which 
day the monks had leave to elect another superior. Also 
from a chance entry in the Ely registers it appears that 
on July the 25th, 1349, a new vicar was instituted to 
Whaddon, in Cambridgeshire, on the presentation of the 
fourth prior of the Monastery of Lewes, to which the 
living was appropriated. It is explained that the reason 
why the fourth superior in the house had presented was 
because "the prior, sub-prior, and third prior were all 
dead." * Lastly, a year or two after the epidemic had 
passed, even Battle abbey is said to be in great straits, 
and " in many ways dilapidated " {multipliciter dilapid- 
atur)y about which the King orders an inquiry.' 

^ B. Mas. Cole MS., 5824, p. 78 (from Reg. Lisle, foL 24). 
* Rot. Pat., 27 Ed. III., pars i, m. 4. 



IN the last two chapters an account has been given of 
the great plague of 1349 in the southern portion 
of England. In somewhat less detail the story of its 
ravages in Gloucester, Oxfordshire, and the Midlands 
must be here told. First, however, the general account 
given in the chronicle of Galfrid le Baker, who appears 
to have been a native of this district, may here find a 

In all these narratives there is, of course, much repeti- 
tion. But it is just this absolute coincidence, even to the 
use of the same terms, in writers of different countries, 
or even of the same country, who could not have had any 
communication with one another, that brings home to 
the mind the literal reality of statements which, when 
read each one by itself, inevitably appear as gross and 
incredible exaggeration. It so raged at Bristol, writes 
Le Baker, that the people of Gloucester refused those 
of Bristol access to their town, all considering that the 
breath of those so dying was infectious to the living. 
But in the end, Gloucester, and Oxford, and London, and 
finally all England, were so violently attacked that 
hardly a tenth part of both sexes survived. The ceme- 
teries not being sufficient, fields were chosen as burial- 



places for the dead. The Bishop of London bought a 
croft, called " No man's Land," in London, and Sir 
Walter de Manny one called " The new church-hawe " 
(where he has founded a house of religious) to bury the 
dead. Cases in the King's Bench and in the Common 
Pleas necessarily ceased. A few nobles died, amongst 
whom was Sir John Montgomery, Captain of Calais and 
the Lord of Clistel (?) in Calais,* and they were buried at 
the Friars of the Blessed Mary of Carmel, in London. 
An innumerable number of the common people and a 
multitude of religious and other clerics passed away. 
The mortality attacked the young and strong especially, 
and commonly spared the old and weak. Scarce anyone 
dared to have contact with a sick person; the healthy 
fled, leaving the goods of the dead as if infected. Swell- 
ings suddenly breaking out in various parts of the body, 
racked the sick. So hard and dry were they that, when 
cut, scarcely any fluid matter came from them. From 
this form of the plague many, through the cutting, 
after much suffering, recovered. Others had small black 
pustules distributed over the whole skin of the body, 
from which very few, and indeed hardly anyone, regained 
life and strength. 

"This terrible pestilence, which began at Bristol on 
the Feast of the Assumption of the Glorious Virgin, and 
in London about the Feast of St. Michael, raged in 
England for a whole year and more so severely that it 
completely emptied many country villages of every in- 
dividual of the human species. . . . The following year 

^ At p. 92 of the printed edition of this chronicle the author 
describes the breaking out of the plague in France, just after the 
taking of Calais by the English. He attributes the truce between 
the French and the English to the epidemic. 


it devastated Wales as well as England, and then passing 
over to Ireland it killed the English inhabitants there 
in great numbers, but the pure-blooded Irish, living 
in the mountains and high lands, it hardly touched 
till A.D. 1357, when unexpectedly it destroyed them 
everywhere." * 

The mention by Le Baker of Wales and Ireland sug- 
gests a brief statement of what is recorded as to the 
ravages of the pestilence in these two countries. Of 
Wales hardly anything is known for certain, although 
the few items of information that we possess make it 
tolerably certain that Le Baker's statement that it " de- 
vastated" the country is not exaggerated. In April, 
1350, Thomas de Clopton, to whom the lands of the late 
Earl of Pembroke, Laurence de Hastings, had been 
leased during the minority of the heir, petitioned the 
King for a reduction of ;f 140 out of the ^^340 he had 
engaged to pay. The property was chiefly situated in the 
county of Pembroke, and the petitioner urges that, " by 
reason of the mortal pestilence lately so rife in those 
parts, the ordinary value" of the land could not be 
maintained. Upon inquiry the statement was found to be 
true, and ;f 60 arrears were remitted, as well as £40 a 
year taken off the rent* No institutions for any of the 
four Welsh dioceses are forthcoming; but on the suppo- 
sition that half the number of beneficed clergy in the 
Principality were carried off by the sickness, the number 
of benefices in Wales being about 788, the total mortality 
among the beneficed clergy would be nearly 400. 

With r^ard to the religious houses in Wales also, 

* Chronicon Galfridi Le Baker de Swynebroke^ cd. Sir E. M. 
Thompson, pp. 98-9. 
' R. O., Originalia Roll, 24 Ed. Ill, m. 8. 


little is known as to the effect of the pestilence. The 
priory of Abergavenny, an alien priory then in the King's 
hands, was forgiven the rent due to the King's ex- 
chequer,asthe prior found it impossibleto obtain payment 
at this time for his lands.* And seven-and-twenty years 
later, the small number in some fairly large religious 
houses raises the suspicion that they, like so many Eng- 
lish monasteries at this time, had not regained their 
normal strength after their losses. Thus the Cistercian 
abbey of Whitland, in Carmarthen, in 1377 had only a 
community of the abbot and six monks ; the Augustinian 
priory at Carmarthen had but five besides the prior; 
the Premonstratensian abbey of Talley only an abbot 
and five canons, whilst the prior of Kidwelly, a cell of 
Sherborne abbey in Dorset, had not even a socius with 

Some account of what happened in Ireland may be 
gathered from the relation of friar John Clyn, a Minorite 
of Kilkenny, who himself apparently perished in the 
epidemic. "Also this year (i>., 1349),"* he writes, " and 
particularly in the months of September and October, 
bishops, prelates, ecclesiastics, religious, nobles and others, 
and all of both sexes generally, came from all parts of 
Ireland in bands and in great numbers to the pilgrimage 
and the passage of the water of That-Molyngis. So much 
so, that on many days you could see thousands of people 
flocking there, some through devotion, others (and indeed 

1 R. O., Rot. Claus., 25 Ed. Ill, m. 9. 

• R. O., Clerical Subsidy, ^ (51 Ed. II L). 

' The author seems to imply that the plague reached Ireland in 
1348. It is, however, probable that 1349 was in reality the date, for 
in that year, on July 14, Alexander de Biknor, the Archbishop of 
Dublin, died, and also the Bishop of Meath in the same month 
(^ Gams, Series Episcoporum^ p. 219). 


most) through fear of the pestilence, which then was 
very prevalent. It first commenced near Dublin, at 
Howth' and at Drogheda. These cities — Dublin and 
Drogheda — it almost destroyed and emptied of inhabit- 
ants, so that, from the beginning of August to the Na- 
tivity of our Lord, in Dublin alone, 14,000 people died" 

Then after speaking of the commencement of the 
plague and its ravages at Avignon, the author continues : 
" From the beginning of all time it has not been heard 
that so many have died, in an equal time, from pesti- 
lence, famine, or any sickness in the world ; for earth- 
quakes, which were felt for long distances, cast down 
and swallowed up cities, towns, and castles. The plague 
too almost carried off every inhabitant from towns, cities 
and castles, so that there was hardly a soul left to dwell 
there. This pestilence was so contagious that those 
touching the dead, or those sick of it, were at once infected 
and died, and both the penitent and the confessor were 
together borne to the grave. Through fear and horror 
men hardly dared to perform works of piety and mercy; 
that is, visiting the sick and burying the dead. For 
many died from abscesses and from impostumes and 
pustules, which appeared on the thighs and under the 
arm-pits; others died from affection of the head, and, as 
if in frenzy; others through vomiting of blood. 

*'This year was wonderful and full of prodigies in 
many ways; still it was fertile and abundant, although 
sickly and productive of great mortality. In the convent 
of the Minorites of Drogheda 25, and in that of Dublin 
23, friars died before Christmas. 

" The pestilence raged in Kilkenny during Lent, for 
by the 6th of March eight friars Preachers had died since 
' Dalkey in the margin. 


Christmas. Hardly ever did only one die in any house, 
but commonly husband and wife tc^ether, with their 
children, passed along the same way, namely the way of 

" And I, Brother John Clyn, of the order of Minorites, 
and the convent of Kilkenny, have written these note- 
worthy things, which have happened in my time and 
which I have learned as worthy of belief. And lest 
notable acts should perish with time, and pass out of the 
memory of future generations, seeing these many ills, 
and that the world is placed in the midst of evils, I, as 
if amongst the dead, waiting till death do come, have 
put into writing truthfully what I have heard and verified. 
And that the writing may not perish with the scribe, and 
the work fail with the labourer, I add parchment to con- 
tinue it, if by chance anyone may be left in the future 
and any child of Adam may escape this pestilence and 
continue the work thus commenced."^ 

This account of Friar Clyn is borne out by one or two 
documents on the Patent Rolls. Thus in July, 1350, the 
Mayor and Bailiflfs of Cork stated in a petition for relief 
'' that, both because of the late pestilence in those parts, 
and the destruction and wasting of lands, houses, and 
possessions, by our Irish enemies round about the said 
city," they were unable to pay the tax of 80 marks upon 
the place.* Also the citizens of Dublin, in begging to be 
allowed to have 1,000 quarters of corn sent for their 
relief, state in the petition of their Mayor "that the 
merchants and other inhabitants of the city are gravely 
impoverished by the pestilence lately existing in the 

* Friar John Clyn's Annals of Ireland (cd. Irish Archaological 
Society^ 1S49). 

* Rot Pat, 25 Ed. Ill, pars 2, m. 19. 


said country, and other many misfortunes which had 
happened there." ^ Lastly, the tenants of the royal manors 
in Ireland asked the King for special protection. They 
urged that "both by reason of the pestilence lately 
existing in the said country, and because of the exces- 
sive price of provisions and other goods charged by some 
of the officers of the land to the tenants, they are 
absolutely reduced to a state of poverty."' 

After this brief digression upon the plague in Wales 
and Ireland, a return may be made to England. The 
county of Worcester suffered from the disease chiefly in 
the summer months of the year 1349. The institutions 
to livings in the county, show that in 67 parishes out of 
138 the incumbent changed at this time. In several in- 
stances there are recorded more than one change, so that 
fully half of the total number of benefices in the county 
were at one time or other vacant during the progress of 
the disease. The highest number of appointments to 
livings in the county in any one month was in July, 
whilst each month from May to November gives indica- 
tion of some special cause at work producing the vacan- 
cies. In the first four months of the year and in De- 
cember only six institutions are recorded.' As examples 

^ Rot. Pat., 26 Ed. Ill, pars i, m. 11. 

* R. O., L. T. R. Memoranda Roll, 27 Ed. Ill, Hilary term, m. 7. 
^ The following is a table showing the Institutions in some 
months : 

















of benefices which fell vacant more than once during the 
period there may be adduced Great Malvern, to which 
priests were presented on the loth of July and the 21st 
of August; and Powick, near Worcester, to which in- 
stitutions are registered on the 15th of May and the loth 
of July. 

In the city of Worcester, as early as the middle of 
April, difficulties as to the disposal of the bodies of the 
dead were foreseen and provided against by the Bishop, 
Wulstan de Braunsford, who himself, an old and infirm 
man, died on the 6th of August, 1349. On the i8th of 
April, this year, the Bishop wrote from Hartlebury to 
his officials at Worcester, to the following effect: " Care- 
fully considering and not without anxiety of heart often 
remembering how dangerously and excessively, alas, the 
burials have in these days, to our sorrow, increased, in 
the cemetery of our cathedral church at Worcester (for 
the great number of the dead in our days has never 
been equalled); and on this account, both for our breth- 
ren in the said church ministering devoutly to God and 
His most glorious Mother, for the citizens of the said 
city and others dwelling therein, and for all others 
coming to the place, because of the various dangers 
which may probably await them from the corruption 
of the bodies, we desire, as far as God shall grant us, 
to provide the best remedy. Having deliberated over 
this, we have ordained, and do ordain, that a place fit 
and proper for the purpose, namely, the cemetery of 
the hospital of St Oswald, Worcester, be made to 
supply the deficiency in the said cemetery of our cathe- 
dral church arising from the said cause." He conse- 
quently orders that it be made known to the sacrist 
that all burials may at his discretion, "in the time 


of this mortality, be made in the said cemetery of 
St. Oswald."^ 

Leland mentions this cemetery in his Itinerary, where, 
speaking of the " long and fayre suburbe by north with- 
out the formate," he says there was a chapel to St. Os- 
wald, afterwards a hospital ; '* but of later times it was 
turned to a free chapel, and beareth the name of Oswald, 
and here were wont corses to be buried in time of pes- 
tilence as in a publicke cemitory for Worcester." * 

The general state of the country parts in the county 
may be gauged by the account given by the King's 
Escheator for Worcester at this time. This officer, 
named Leo de Perton, was called upon, amongst other 
duties, to account for the receipts of the Bishop of 
Worcester's estates, from his death in August to the ap- 
pointment of a successor at the end of November, 1349. 
The picture of the county generally which is presented in 
his reply is most distressing; tenants, he says, could not 
be got at any price, mills were vacant, forges were stand- 
ing idle, pigeon houses were in ruins and the birds all 
gone, the remnant of the people were everywhere giving 
up their holdings; the harvest could not be gathered, 
nor, had this been possible, were there any inhabitants 
left in the district to purchase the produce. 

* Nash, WarcesUrshire^ i, p. 226. 

* Green (IVorcester, p. 144) speaks of the measures taken by the 
Bishop for the public safety as relieving the city ''from an alarming 
evil," and by it the parishes of St. Alban, St. Helen, St. Swithun, 
St Martin, St. Nicholas, and All Saints, '' whose churchyards were 
very confined and not equal to the reception of the parochial 
deceased, were pennitted to partake of the same advantages of 
sepulture. . . . Hence St. Oswald's burial ground has accumulated 
that prodigious assemblage of tumulation which, at this time, 
cannot be viewed with indifference by the most cursory beholder.'' 


Coming to the particular case of the Bishop's tem- 
poralities, he claims that of ;f 140 supposed to be due, 
on the calculation of normal years, so much as ;C84 was 
never received. For in that year, 1349, the autumn 
works of all kinds were not performed. " On the divers 
manors of the said bishopric they did not, and could 
not, obtain more than they allowed, on account of the 
dearth of tenants, who were wont to pay rent, and of 
customary tenants, who used to perform the said works, 
but who had all died in the deadly pestilence, which 
raged in the lands of the said bishopric, during and be- 
fore the date of the said account." 

In the inquiry, the Escheator produced a letter from 
the King,^ saying that he had no wish that his official 
should be charged more than he received. As a conse- 
quence of this, two commissions were sent into the 
country to try, with a jury, the matter at issue. The 
Escheator put in lists of tenants from whom alone he had 
received anything, and in the end the jury came to the 
conclusion that his statement was correct The particu- 
lars disclose some matters of considerable interest in the 
present inquiry. For example, on the manor of Hartle- 
bury there had been thirty-eight tenants called virgates^ 
because each had farmed a virgate of land; thirteen 
called nokelonds, twenty-one called arkmen and four cot- 
tars, who rendered certain services, valued at 106 shillings 
and \\\d,^ year, including a custom called '* yardsilver." 
Nothing could be got of these services, " because all the 
tenants had died in the mortal sickness, before the date 
of this account," and in the return of the jury there are 
said to be only four tenants on the land paying 2s. \od^ 

» Dated October 26th, 1352. 

' R. O., L. T. R. Memoranda Roll, 26 Ed. III. 


That this was not a mere passing difficulty appears 
certain when, some years later, in 1354, the same £s- 
cheator asks for relief of £$7 ISJ. Si^., which he could 
not then obtain on the same estates, once again in his 
hands, by the translation of the Bishop to another See. 
Speaking of the work of the customary tenants, he says: 
'' That he has not obtained, and could not obtain any of 
these, because the remnant of the said tenants had 
changed them into other services, and after the plague, 
they were no longer bound to perform services of this 

The results in the neighbouring county of Warwick 
are naturally similar. With the counties of Gloucester 
and Worcester it formed the ancient see of Worcester. 
The institutions of clergy in the county, given in Dug- 
dale's History of Warwickshire^ show that before April 
and after October only seven of such institutions were 
made, so that the pestilence was rife in the county in 
the summer months of 1349, the institutions in the two 
months of June and July being the highest* 

In some instances the changes were very rapid ; thus 
at Ditchford Friary an incumbent came on July the 19th, 
and by August the 22nd his successor was appointed. 
Kenilworth, too, was thrice vacant between May and 

^ R. O., L. T. R. Memoranda Roll, 28 Ed. Ill, Mich, terai, 
m. 19. 

^ The following table gives the number of Institutions in some 
months : 
















August. At Coventry, on May loth, Jordan Shepey, the 
Mayor, " who built the well called Jordan well," died' 
In July the archdeacon of Coventry and a chantry priest 
at Holy Trinity were carried off. In August the Cathe- 
dral prior, John de Dunstable, was elected to fill the 
vacancy at the priory, and shortly after Trinity church 
had a new incumbent At PoUesworth the abbess, Le- 
ticia de Hexstall, died, and a successor was appointed 
on October 13th, 1349. 

In Oxfordshire, which at the time of the g^eat visita- 
tion of the plague, formed part of the large diocese of 
Lincoln, the number of benefices, exclusive of the Ox- 
ford colleges, was some 220. Half this number conse- 
quently may be estimated as that of the deaths of the 
beneficed clergy. The disease was probably prevalent in 
the county about the same time as in the adjacent places 
— that is, in the spring and summer months of 1349. 
The prioress of Godstowe, for example, died some time 
before May the 20th, on which day the royal permission 
was given to elect a successor, and the prior of St Frides- 
wide, Oxford, very much about the same time ; since on 
June 1st Nicholas de Hungerford received the tem- 
poralities upon his election. 

The city of Oxford, with its large population of stu- 
dents, appears to have suffered terribly. " Such a pes- 
tilence," writes Wood, " that the like was never known 
before in Oxon. Those that had places and houses in 
the country retired (though overtaken there also), and 
those that were lefl behind were almost totally swept 
away. The school doors were shut, colleges and halls 
relinquished, and none scarce left to keep possession, or 
make up a competent number to bury the dead. 'Tis 
1 Dugdale, Wamnckshire (ed. Thomas), p. 147. 


reported that no less than 16 bodies in one day were 
carried to one churchyard to be buried, so vehemently 
did it rage " * The celebrated FitzRalph, Archbishop of 
Armagh, who had been Chancellor of the University 
before the event, declares that in his time of office there 
were 30,000 students at Oxford.* In this statement he 
is borne out by Gascoigne, who, writing his Theological 
Dictionary^ in the reign of Henry VI, says: " Before the 
great plague in England there were few quarrels between 
the people and law cases, and so there were also few 
lawyers in the kingdom of England and few in Oxford, 
when there were 30,000 scholars at Oxford, as I have 
seen on the rolls of the ancient Chancellors, when I was 
Chancellor there." * This concourse was diverted by the 
pestilence, since in 1357 FitzRalph declares that there 
were not a third of the old number at the schools. 

In the year of the visitation Oxford had no fewer than 
three Mayors. Richard de Selwood died on the 21st 
April of this year, and the burgesses then made choice 
of Richard de Cary. Before he could reach London to 

* Wood, History and Antiquities of the University of Oxford 
(ed. Gutch), p. 449. 

^ Harl. MS., 1900, fol. ii\ Trevisa's translation of FitzRalph's 
Proposiiio coram Papa: " So yt yet in my tyme, in ye University of 
Oxenford were thritty thousand scolers at ones, and now beth 
unnethe sixe thousand." 

• Gascoigne, LociexUbro Veritatum^ ed. J. E. Thorold Rogers, 
p. 202. The editor on the passage says : " They (1.^. the students) 
come from all parts of Europe. The number seems incredible, but 
Oxfordshire was, to judge from its rating for exceptional taxation, 
after Norfolk, then at the best of its industries, the wealthiest 
county in England by a considerable proportion. . . . This con- 
course of students was diverted by the great plague. ... I see no 
reason to doubt the statement about the exceeding populousness 
of Oxford in the first half of the 14th century." 


take the oath to the King he was taken sick, and the 
abbot of Osney was named as Commissioner to attend 
at Oxford and administer the oath of office to him. On 
May 19th the abbot certified that he had done this, but 
on the 1 6th of June, letters dated from Oxford two days 
previously were received in London announcing the 
Mayor's death and the election of John Dereford in his 

Without doubt Oxford had its plague pit like other 
cities. The late Professor Thorold Rogers, writing about 
this pestilence, says: " I have no doubt that the principal 
place of burial for Oxford victims was at some part of 
New College garden, for when Wykeham bought the site 
it appears to have been one which had been previously 
populous, but was deserted some thirty years before 
during the plague and apparently made a burial ground 
by the survivors of the calamity." * 

^ R. O., L. T. R. Memoranda Roll, 23 Ed. Ill, Mich. 
■ Six Centuries of Work and Wages^ i, p. 223. 



THE history of the great pestilence in the diocese of 
Norwich which includes the two eastern counties of 
Norfolk and Suffolk, has been graphically described by 
Dr. Jessopp.* The results at which he has arrived by a 
careful study of the episcopal registers of the diocese and 
the court rolls of sundry manors may be very briefly 
summarised here. The epidemic was at its height in the 
East of England in the summer months of 1349,' and 
the deaths in the ranks of the clei^y were very alarming. 
The average number of institutions in the diocese yearly 
for five years before the sickness was seventy-seven. In 
this single year 800 parishes lost their incumbents, 83 of 
them twice, and ten three times, in a few months; and 
by the close of the year two-thirds of the benefices in 
the diocese had become vacant. 

Of the seven convents of women in this district, five 

^ The Coming of the Friars^ pp. 166-261. 

' The following is a table of the Institutions during four months : 












lost their superiors, and in at least twelve of the religious 
houses of men, including the abbey of St Benet's Hulme, 
the head died. How many of the subjects in these 19 
monastic establishments were carried oflf by the sickness 
can never be known; but bearing in mind what was re- 
marked at the time, that the disease hardly ever entered 
a house without claiming many victims, and what we 
know of other places of which there is definite informa- 
tion, the suspicion may be allowed that the roll of the 
dead in the religious houses of East Anglia was very 
large. At Heveringland the prior and canons died to a 
man, and at Hickling only one survived; neither house 
ever recovered. In the collie of St Mary-in-the-Fields, 
at Norwich, five out of the seven prebendaries were 
carried off, whilst the Friars of our Lady, in the same 
city, are said all to have died. Altogether, Dr. Jessopp 
calculates that some 2,000 clergy in the diocese must 
have been carried off by the disease in a few months. 

From the court rolls the same evidence is adduced for 
the terrible mortality among the people. Dr. Jessopp 
had collected many striking proofs of this, from which 
one or two examples may be quoted. On a manor called 
Cornard Parva there were about 50 tenants. On 31st 
March three men and six women are roistered as having 
died in two months. During the next month 15 men and 
women, seven without heirs, were carried off, and by 3rd 
November there are 36 more deaths recorded, and of 
these 13 had left no relations. Thus during the incid- 
ence of the plague some 21 families on this one manor 
had disappeared. The priest of the place had died in 

To take another example. At Hunstanton on the 
^ The Coming of the Friars^ p. 20a 


1 6th of October, 1349, it was found that in two months 
63 men and 15 women had been carried off. In 31 in- 
stances only women and children had been left to suc- 
ceed, and in nine there were no known heirs. In this 
small parish, and in only eight months, 172 persons 
who were tenants of the manor had died. Of these, 
74 had left no heirs male, and 19 no blood relations 
at all.^ 

To these examples may be added one taken from the 
court roll of the manor of Snetterton, about the centre 
of the county of Norfolk. A court of the manor was 
held on Saturday in the feast of St. James the Apostle, 
that is July 25th, 1349, and it is called ominously the 
Curia pestiUncie^ the Court of the Plague. At this meet- 
ing 39 tenants of the manor are named as having died, 
and in many cases no heir is forthcoming. One tenant 
is specially named as holding his house and ten acres 
on condition of keeping three lamps ever burning before 
the Blessed Sacrament in the parish church. He is dead, 
and has left no other relation but a son 16 years of 

The larger cities of East Anglia, such as Norwich and 
Yarmouth, suffered no less than the country districts 
from the all-pervading plague. The historian of Norfolk 
has estimated the population of Norwich before this 
catastrophe at 70,000.' It was unquestionably one of the 
most flourishing cities of England, and possessed some 
60 parish churches, seven conventual establishments, as 
well as other churches in the suburbs; and on the 
authority of an ancient record in the Guildhall, Blome- 
field put down the number of those carried off by the 

* The Coming of the Friars^ p. 203. 

' Blomefieldy History of Norfolk (folio ed.}, ii, p. 681. 


epidemic at 57,374. Such a number has been considered 
by many as altogether impossible, but that the city was 
reduced considerably does not appear open to doubt in 
view of the fact that by 1368 ten parishes had dis- 
appeared and fourteen more were subsequently found to 
be useless. "The ruins of twenty of these," says a 
modem writer, " may still be seea" ' 

Yarmouth in the middle of the fourteenth century was 
a most flourishing port When, to assist the attack of 
Edward on Calais, but two years before the plague, 
London furnished 25 ships and 662 mariners, Yarmouth 
is said to have sent 43 ships and 1,950 sailors.' William 
of Worcester, in his Itinerary, after speaking in praise of 
the town, says: "In the great pestilence there died 
7,000 people." * This statement is probably based upon 
the number of persons buried in one churchyard. For in 
a petition of burgesses of Yarmouth in the beginning of 
the sixteenth century to Henry VII it is asserted that 
the prosperous condition of the town was destroyed by 
the great plagues during the reign of Edward III. In 
the thirty-first year of this reign, they say — ^probably 
mistaking the year — 7,052 people were buried in their 
churchyard, " by reason whereof the most part of the 
dwelling-places and inhabitations of the said town stood 
desolate and fell into utter ruin and decay, which at this 
day are gardens and void grounds, as it evidently ap- 

It is, moreover, certain that Yarmouth Church, large 
as it appears in these days, was, before the plague of 

^ F. Seebohm, The Black Death and its place in English History 
(in Fartnightly Review^ Sept ist, 1865). 
■ Fuller, Worthies^ ed. Nicholas, ii, p. 132. 
' Ed. Nasmith, p. 344. 


1349, i^ot ample enough for the population/ and pre- 
parations had already been made for considerably en- 
larging its nave. Owing to the pestilence the work was 
not carried out. Nor is this the only instance in the 
county where the enlargement of churches already vast 
was rendered unnecessary by the diminution of inhabit- 
ants through the sickness. It is impossible to examine 
the great churches which abound in the counties of Nor- 
folk and Suffolk without coming to the conclusion that 
they were built to serve the purposes of a large popula- 

To take one example, the tax on the town of Dunwich 
had been granted by the King to the monastery of Ely ; 
but in 1 35 1 the inhabitants petitioned for relief as they 
were quite unable to find the money for the royal col- 
lectors. The King gave way to what he calls " the rela- 
tion of the men of the town of Dunwich," which recited 
that *' the said town, which before this time was com- 
pletely inhabited by fisher-folk had been rendered deso- 
late by the deadly plague late raging in those parts, and 
by our enemies the French seizing and killing the fisher- 
men at sea, and still remained so." ^ 

From Norfolk and Suffolk we pass to the adjoining 
county of Cambridge, which is conterminous with the 
diocese of Ely. The Bishop of the diocese, Thomas de 
Lisle, was abroad at the time when the plague broke out 
in the county. On the 19th of May he wrote to the 
clergy of his diocese, forwarding the letter of Stephen, 

' Professor Seebohm thinks that Yarmouth had probably a popu- 
lation of 10,000 before 1349. This seems much too low. It had 
220 ships. 

' R. O., Rot. Claus., 26 £d. Ill, m. 5d. This is repeated on two 
occasions in the next year. 


Archbishop of Aries, and Chamberlain of the Pope, 
already referred to elsewhere. By this anyone was em- 
powered to choose his own confessor, " since in all places 
now is, or will be, the epidemic or mortality of people 
which at present rages in most parts of the world." * 
The Bishop had made arrangements for the govern- 
ment of his See during his absence abroad, but on April 
9th, 1349, he wrote from Rome, making other disposi- 
tions in view of the plague. " By reason of the epidemic, 
as it is called, wonderfully increasing in the diocese," as 
he has lately understood by people from thence, he " for 
fear his former Vicars General should die," augments 
their number. And, further, " considering how difficult 
it is for two people to agree about the same sentence, he 
appoints John, prior of Barnwell, singly and solely to 
dispose of all vacant benefices, and in case of his death, 
or refusal to act, then Master Walter de Peckham, 
LL.D., to be sole disposer of them," and then six others 
in order; a provision which itself shows how slight he 
considered the chance of life for any individual. In 
other matters any of his Vicars General could act ; and 
" in case of any death putting a stop to business, as was 
likely in such a mortality," whichever Vicar (Jeneral was 
present should act until the arrival of the three specially 

The foresight of the Bishop was not unnecessary. 
From the month of April vacancies followed quickly one 
upon another. For three years previous to 1349 the 
average number of institutions recorded in the episcopal 
registers was nine, and in 1348 it was only seven. In 
this year of the great sickness 97 appointments to liv- 

^ B. Mus. Cole MS., 5824, fol. 73. Extracts from Reg. Lisle. 
' Ibid., fol. 76. 


ings in the diocese were made by the Bishop's Vicars, 
and in July alone there were 25/ The prior of Barnwell 
died early in the course of the sickness, probably even 
before he could have received the Bishop's commission 
to act for him in the matter of vacant benefices. 

In June there are evidences of the mortality in the 
Cathedral priory of Ely. On the 23rd of the month John 
de Co, Chancellor of the diocese, acting as the> Bishop's 
representative, according to the commission, appointed 
a new sub-prior to the monastery, and again on July 
2nd a cellarer and camerarius. A week later, on the 9th 
of July, 1349, "Brother Philip Dallying, late sacrist of 
Ely, being dead, and the said Brother Paulinus (the 
camerarius) being likewise dead and both of them buried, 
he appointed to both offices, namely. Brother Adam de 
Lynsted as sacrist, and Brother John of St. Ives as 
camerarius."' At the same time also two chantries in 
the Cathedral became vacant; one, called "the green 
chantry," twice in two months. 

> The following table will give the number for some months : 
















The total number of benefices in the diocese at this time was 

* Cole MS., ui supra. Apparently another sacrist of Ely, called 
John of Wisbeach, died on i6th June, 1349, "during the building 
of the Lady Chapel" (see D. J. Stewart, HisUofEly^ p. 138; and 
Angl, SacrUy i, p. 652}. 


The number of clergy carried away by the sickness in 
this diocese may be estimated from the number of 
vacant benefices. Deducting the average number of 
yearly institutions, it is fair to consider that 89 priests 
holding benefices died at this time.^ The proportion of 
non-beneficed clergy to those beneficed was then prob- 
ably about the same as it was in the second year of 
King Richard II. The clerical subsidy for that time 
shows 140 beneficed clergy against 508 non-beneficed, 
including the various religious.' On this basis at least 
350 of the clerical order must have perished in the 
diocese of Ely. 

The University town of Cambridge did not escape. 
On May 24th, 1349, the church of St. Sepulchre's fell 
vacant, and already in July several of the churches were 
without incumbents. Towards the end of April the 
Master of the hospital of St John died, and one Robert 
de Sprouston was appointed to succeed. Then he died 
a short time after, and one Roger de Broom was in- 
stituted on May 24th ; but in his turn Rc^er died, and 
another took his place. 

Cambridge, too, had probably its common plague pit 
"Some years ago," writes the late Professor Thorold 
Rogers, " being at Cambridge while the foundations of 
the new Divinity School were being laid, I saw that the 
ground was full of skeletons, thrown in without any at- 

* Bentham, History of the Cathedral Church of Ely^ i, p. 161, 
has the following note: Register L'Isle, foL 17-21. Hinc obiter 
notandum duxi, numerum clericorum parochialium in tota Diocesi 
Elien. hoc tempore fuisse 145, aut circiter; ex hoc autem numero, 
constat ex Registro 92 Institutiones fuisse infra annum 1349 (anno 
incipiente 25 die Martii). 

* Clerical Subsidy, V- 


tempt at order, and I divined that this must have been 
a Cambridge plague pit." * 

A curious document preserved in the Bishop's archives 
shows how severely some parishes must have suffered. 
It is a consent given by the prior and convent of Ely to 
a proposal of the Bishop to unite two parishes in Cam- 
bridge. It mentions the churches of All Saints' and 
St. Giles', of Cambridge, near the castle, and states that 
the parishioners of the former are, for the most part, 
dead in the pestilence, and those that had been left 
alive had gone to the parishes of other churches. It 
also says that the people of St. Giles' have died, and, 
further, that the nave of All Saints' is in a ruinous state, 
" and the bones of the dead exposed to beasts." The 
Bishop consequently proposes to unite these two an- 
cient parishes of Cambridge, and in this consent to the 
proposal a glimpse is almost accidentally afforded of the 
desolation wrought in the University town by the ter- 
rible scourge.' 

An example of what was probably very general 
throughout the county is afforded by a roll of accounts 
for a Cambridgeshire manor in this year. Considerable 
decay of rents is noted, and no wonder, for it would 
seem that 50 tenements and 22 cottages were in hand, 
and that the services which the holders would otherwise 
have rendered had to be paid for. At Easter 13 copy- 
holders' tenements are vacant, and by Pentecost another 
30 are added to the long list* 

* Six Centuries of Work and Wages^ i, p. 223. 

^ Hist, MSS, Comm.y Sixth Report^ p. 299. This document is 
dated 27th May, 1366, and consequently may refer also to the 
effects of the plague of 1361. 

' R. O., Duchy of Lancaster, Mins. Accts., Bundle 288, No. 471. 


The clergy were reduced to the greatest straits in 
consequence of the deaths among their parishioners, 
leading to a proportional diminution of their incomes. 
On September 20th, 1349, the Bishop's Vicar addressed 
a letter to John Lynot, vicar of All Saints', Jury, Cam- 
bridge.* " We are informed," he says, " by your frequent 
complaint that the portion coming to you in the said 
church is known to consist only of oflferings of the par- 
ishioners, and that the same parishioners have been so 
swept away by the plague notoriously raging in this 
year that the offerings of the said church do not suffice 
for the necessities of life, and that you cannot elsewhere 
obtain help to bear the burden laid upon you. On this 
account you have humbly petitioned us to be allowed to 
have for two years an anniversary (Mass) for your neces- 
sary support. Since your position in God's Church does 
not make it fitting that you should seek alms, par- 
ticularly for necessities in food and clothing, we grant 
you the permission asked on the condition that as soon 
as the fruit and revenue of the said portion be sufficient 
to furnish you properly with necessaries you altog^ether 
give up the income of this anniversary (Mass)." * At the 
same time a similar permission was granted to John Atte 
Welle, vicar of St John, " in Meln-street," Cambridge. 

The adjoining county of Huntingdon forms a portion 
of the great diocese of Lincoln. In it there were some 
95 benefices, which may give some indication of the 
probable number of deaths in the ranks of the clergy of 
the county. 

The abbot of Ramsey died on the loth of June, 13491 

^ It was this church which some years later was declared to be 
in a ruinous state. 
* Cole MS., 5824, fol. 81. 


and the King did not, as usual, claim the temporalities 
during the vacancy, but allowed the monks to pay a 
smaller sum than was usual ; '* and, be it remembered," 
says the document allowing this, " that because of the 
depression of the said abbey by the present mortal pes- 
tilence raging in the country, the said custody is granted 
to the prior and convent for a lesser sum to pay to the 
King than at the time of the last vacancy." ' 

Among the Inquisitiones post mortem is one relating 
to the manor of Caldecot, in Huntingdonshire. It formed 
part of the estates of Margaret, Countess of Kent, who 
died on St. Michael's day, 1349. Many houses of the 
manor are represented as ruinous, and of no value. 
Rents of assize, formerly worth jf 8 a year, this time 
produced but fifty shillings; an old mill, which hitherto 
had been let with land for two pounds a year, is now 
only worth 6s, 8d?., " because of the pestilence it could be 
let at no higher rate." And, lastly, the fees of the manor 
court had sunk from 13^. 4//. to 3^. 4//. " through dearth 
of tenants there."* 

Proceeding westward from Huntingdonshire, the 
county of Northampton next claims attention. Judged 
by the lists of institutions given in Bridges' history of 
the county, there were changes at this period in 131 in- 
stances out of 281. In fifteen cases two or more changes 
occurred in the same place in 1349, and the number of 
institutions was greatest in August, when 36 appoint- 

^ R. O., Originalia Roll, 23 Ed. Ill, m. 6. Among the Ministers' 
Accounts (Q. R., Mins. Accts., General Series, 874, No. 9) is a set 
belonging to a Ramsey manor at this time. ^'Many holdings of 
natives " are said to be in hand " on account of the pestilence," and 
in one place *' 22 virgates of land " for the same reason. 

* R. O., Chancery Inq. p. m., 23 Ed. Ill, No. 88. 



ments were made/ From the institutions it appears 
likely that the town of Northampton was attacked most 
severely about the October of the year 1349; at least, on 
November ist two appointments were made to livings 

As to the religious houses, at Luffield all are said to 
have died of the plague. William de Skelton, the prior, 
was carried off by the sickness, and the rental of the 
house was subsequently declared to be inadequate for 
its support At Delaprey Convent, Catherine Knyvet, 
the abbess, fell a victim to the disease. At Worthop, the 
superior, Emma de Pinchbeck, died, and probably many 
of the Augustinian nuns there. The Bishop appointed 
Agnes Bowes to succeed, but the convent never re- 
covered, and in 1354 was, at the petition of its patron 
Sir Thomas Holland, united to the convent of St Michael 
near Stamford. In the royal licence it is stated " that 
the convent, being poorly endowed, was, by the pestil- 
ence which lately prevailed, reduced to such poverty that 
all the nuns but one, on account of their penury, had 
dispersed." * 

* The following table will show the number of Institutions in 
Northamptonshire for some months ; before May and after October, 
1349, some 34 institutions are recorded: 














' R. O., Rot. Pat., 28 Ed. Ill, pars i, m. 16. 


The inquiry just referred to, as to the estates of the 
Countess of Kent upon her death in 1349, reports as to 
the state of a manor in Northamptonshire. It is the 
same tale of depression and desolation as appears every- 
where else throughout England. Pasture formerly worth 
forty shillings now yields only ten, and some even 
brought in only five shillings in place of eighteen ; and 
the sole reason assigned is " the mortality." A water- 
mill and a wind-mill " for the same cause " were let for 
6s. Sd., instead of the old 56 shillings. 

The priory of Stamford itself moreover was in sad 
distress. The rents from five free tenants and eighteen 
customary tenants, were just one-third of their former 
value "for the same cause." And the same nuns, in 
place of igs, Zd. which they used to get for thirteen 
tenements, now received only four shillings, whilst their 
yearly tenants, who should pay 13 lbs. of pepper, at i2d. 
the pound, have paid nothing ; moreover the fines of the 
manor, estimated to produce twenty shillings a year, 
have brought in but two. 

A third example is given in the case of a manor near 
Blisworth, in which two mills are let for twenty, in place 
of the old rent of sixty-five shillings ; and two carucates 
of land produced only some fifteen shillings the carucate* 
"and not more, on account of the mortality in those 
parts." ^ 

Of the small county of Rutland, lying at the north of 
Northamptonshire, little can be said. It likewise formed 
part of the diocese of Lincoln, and contained some 57 
benefices. From an inquisition we learn that on one 
manor for nine virgates of land there could be estimated 
nothing in the way of rent, " because all the tenants died 
^ R. O., Chancery Inq. p. m., 23 Ed. Ill, No. 88. 


before the feast of Easter (1349). They (1.^., the jury) 
also say that the natives and cottars did not work this 
year." In another place, a house and garden formerly let 
for forty shillings, now produces only twenty shillings; 
240 acres of arable land are let for half their former 
value, and 180 acres of meadow are worfh lod. per acre, 
in place of eighteenpence.* 

Eastward, the county adjoining Northampton is 
Leicester. For this county there exists the local account 
of Knighton, a canon of Leicester abbey. As far as con- 
cerns England his relation may fitly "find a place here. 
" The sorrow-bearing pestilence," he writes, " entered the 
sea coast at Southampton, and came to Bristol, and 
almost the whole strength of the town died as if 
struck with sudden death, for there were few who kept 
their beds beyond three or two days or even half a day. 
Then the terrible death rolled on into all parts according 
to the course of the sun, and at Leicester, in the little 
parish of St. Leonard, there died more than 380; in the 
parish of Holy Cross more than 400; in that of St 
Margaret, Leicester, more than 700; and so in every 
parish great numbers. 

" The Bishop of Lincoln sent through his diocese a 
general power to all and every priest, both regular and 
secular, to hear confessions and to absolve with full and 
entire episcopal power, except only in the case of debt 
In that case, if able (the penitent) himself was to make 
satisfaction whilst he lived, or at least others should 
do so with his property, after his death. In the same 
way the Pope granted a full remission from all sins, 
to be obtained once only by every one in danger oi 
death, and he allowed this faculty to last till the next 
' Escheator*s Inq. p. m., Series 1, file 201. 


Easter following, and each to choose at will his own 

" In the same year, there was a great mortality of 
sheep everywhere in the kingdom ; so much so, that in 
one place there died in one pasture more than 5,000 
sheep, and they were so putrid that neither beast nor 
bird would touch them. The price for everything was 
low; through fear of death, very few cared for riches and 
the like. And then a man could purchase a horse for 
half a mark, which before had been worth forty shillings ; 
a large fat ox for 4^.; a cow for I2d.; a bullock for 6d.; 
a fat wether for 4//.; a sheep for 3d.; a lamb for 2d; a 
large pig for $d.; and a stone of wool for nine pence; 
and sheep and cattle roamed about, wandering in fields 
and through the growing harvest, and there was no one 
to drive them off or collect them; but in ditches and 
thickets they died in innumerable quantities in every 
part, for lack of guardians; for so great a dearth of 
servants and labourers existed that no one knew what 
to do. Memory could not recall so universal and terrible a 
mortality since the time of Vortigern, king of the Britons, 
in whose reign, as Bede in his Degestis Anglorum testifies, 
the living did not suffice to bury the dead. 

" In the following autumn no one could get a harvester 
at a lower price than eight pence with food. For this 
reason many crops perished in the fields for lack of 
those to gather them ; but in the year of the pestilence, 
as said above of other things, there was such an abund- 
ance of crops of all kinds that no one, as it were, cared 
for them." ^ 

In the absence of any definite information as to the 
institutions made at this time in the county of Leicester 

^ Twysden, Historiae Anglicanae Scriptorcs Decent^ col. 2699. 


it is only necessary to note that the number of benefices 
was about 250 at this period. There were also some 
twelve religious houses and several hospitals. In 1351, 
as we learn from the records, Croxton abbey still ** re- 
mained quite deserted." The church and many of the 
buildings had been burnt, and "by the pestilence the 
abbey was entirely deprived of those by whose ability 
the monastery was then administered " (the abbot and 
prior alone excepted). The abbot was sick, *' and the said 
prior (in November, 1351) was fully occupied in the con- 
duct of the Divine Office and the instruction of the novices 
received there into the community, after the pestilence." * 

A slight confirmation of Knighton's account of the 
distress in the country parts after the plague had passed, 
if any were needed, is found in an inquisition made upon 
the death of Isabella, wife of William de Botereaux, who 
died upon St James' Day, 1349. The manor held by her 
was at a place called Sadington, in Leicestershire, and 
two carucates of land are represented as lying uncul- 
tivated and waste '' through the want of tenants." * 

The adjoining county of Staffordshire formed part of 
the diocese of Coventry and Lichfield. It comprised 165 
benefices, which may form some basis on which to calcu- 
late in estimating the number of clergy who were carried 
off by the pestilence. Some lands in this county, near 
Tamworth, belonged to the Earl of Pembroke, Upon 
his death, whilst the heir was a minor, they were farmed 
out at a rent of £38 per annum, to be paid to the King. 
In 1 35 1 the man who had agreed to pay that sum 
petitioned to have it reduced, because " the tenements 
with the said land so let are so deteriorated by the 

* Rymer, Foedera^ v, p. 729. 

' R. O., Escheator's Inq. p. m., 23 Ed. Ill, Series i, file 240. 


pestilential mortality lately raging in those parts that 
they do not reach their wonted value." After inquiry, 
his rent is reduced by ;^8 the year.* 

Of the two counties bordering upon Wales, Hereford 
and Shropshire, not much is known at this time. There 
can be little doubt, however, that they suffered quite as 
severely from the epidemic as the other counties of 

In the diocese of Hereford, including that county and 
a portion of Shropshire, the average number of institu- 
tions to benefices, during three years before and after 
the epidemic, was some 13. In 1349 there are recorded 
in Bishop Trileck's roister no fewer than 175 institu- 
tions, and in the following year the number of 45 vacant 
benefices filled up, points to the fact that many livings 
had probably remained for some months without incum- 
bents. This suspicion is further strengthened by the fre- 
quent appearance of the words " by lapse " in the record 
of institutions at this period, which shows that for six 
months the living had not been filled by the patron. It 
is probable, therefore, that in the diocese of Hereford 
about 200 beneficed clergy fell victims to the disease. 
Taking the dates of the institutions as some indication of 
the period when the epidemic was most severe in the 
diocese, it would appear that the worst time was from 
May to September, 1349.' 

' Originalia Roll, 25 Ed. Ill, m. 11. 

* The following table will give the number of Institutions in the 
diocese of Hereford for some months : 















One fact bearing upon the subject of the great mor- 
tality in the pestilence of 1349 in the county of Hereford 
is recorded in the episcopal register. In 1352 the Bishop 
united into one parish the two churches of Great Coling- 
ton and Little Colington, about four miles from Brom- 
yard. The patrons of the two livings agreed to support 
a petition of the parishes to this effect, and in it they 
say " that the sore calamity of pestilence of men lately 
passed, which ravaged the whole world in every part, 
has so reduced the number of the people of the said 
churches, and for that said reason there followed, and 
still exists, such a paucity of labourers and other in- 
habitants, such manifest sterility of the lands, and such 
notorious poverty in the said parishes, that the parish- 
ioners and receipts of both churches scarcely suffice to 
support one priest." * The single church of CoHngton 
remains to this day as a memorial of the great mortality 
in that district. Even among the inhabitants the memory 
of the two Colingtons has apparently been lost 

In Salop the historians of the county town record that 
'* through all these appalling scenes (consequent upon 
the great mortality of 1349) the zeal of the clei^, both 
secular and monastic, was honourably distinguished. 
The episcopal roisters of the diocese, within which 
Shrewsbury is situated, bear a like honourable testi- 
mony to the assiduity of the secular clei^ of the dis- 
trict"* From the same source it appears that the average 
number of institutions to benefices vacant by death 
during ten years before 1349 and ten years after are 
only li per annum, or 15 for the whole period. In that 
year the number of institutions to vacancies known to 

» Reg. Trileck, fol. 103. 

' Owen and Blakeway, Shrewsbury^ i, p. 165. 


have been caused by death was 29. If this number be 
taken as a guide for the general mortality, Shropshire 
would appear to have suffered in an exceptional manner. 
Besides these, however, there are a number of other 
institutions registered at this time, the cause of which is 
not specified, and many of them most probably were 
also caused by the great epidemic. 

As an example of the general destitution caused by 
the great sickness, Owen and Blakeway quote an /»- 
quisitio post mortem^ taken in the year of the plague, 
upon the estate of a Shropshire gentleman, John le 
Strange of Blakmere. By that record he is found by the 
jury to have died, seized with various lands, etc., amongst 
others, the three water-mills, " which used to be worth 
by the year 20 marks, but now they are worth only half 
that sum, by reason of the want of those grinding, on 
account of the pestilence." The same cause is assigned 
for the diminution of other parts of his revenue, as tolls 
on markets, rent of assize, etc. 

In the manor of Dodington, proceeds the record of 
the inquiry, " there are two carucates of land which used 
to be worth yearly sixty shillings, and now the said 
jurors know not how to value the said land, because the 
domestic and labouring servants (^famuli et servientes) 
are dead, and no one is willing to hire the land." The 
water-mill has sunk in value from thirty shillings to six- 
and-eightpence, because the tenants are dead ; the pond 
was valueless since the fish had been taken out, and it 
had not been stocked again.^ 

This John le Strange, of Whitchurch, died on August 

* Owen and Blakeway, Shrewsbury^ i, p. 165. The Inquisition 
is to be found in the Record Office; Chancery Inq. p. m., 23 
Ed. Ill, No. 78. 


20th, 1349, and the inquisition held upon his estates 
names three sons — Fulk, the eldest, who was married; 
Humphrey, the second; and John, who was 17 years of 
age ; and it notes that if Fulk were to die then Humphrey 
his brother was the heir. The inquiry was held upon 
August 30th, ten days after the death of John, and at 
this very time when Fulk was thus declared to be the 
heir he had himself been dead two days. Apparently 
also Humphrey was carried off by the sickness as well; 
because in the inquisition subsequently held upon the 
estate of Fulk, John, the third brother, is named as the 
heir. In this inquiry the jury bear out the declarations 
of that which had testified to the condition of the estates 
upon the death of the father. On one manor it is stated 
that the rent of assize, which used to be ;6'20, is now only 
forty shillings, and the court fees have fallen from forty 
to five shillings, " because the tenants there are dead." 
And in another Shropshire hamlet the rent of assize, 
formerly ;f 4, was now " from the said cause " only eight 

North of a line drawn from the Wash to the Dee, the 
four counties of Chester, Derby, Nottingham, and Lin- 
coln stretch across England from west and east. A brief 
record of the pestilence in each of these counties is all 
that need be here given. In its main lines, and, indeed, 
almost in its every detail, the story of one county is that 
of every other, and it is only by chance that the account 
of definite incidents has been preserved. 

The benefices in the county of Chester numbered some 
70. In the four months June, July, August, and Septem- 
ber, thirty institutions are entered in the registers of 
Coventry and Lichfield for the archdeaconry of Chester 
* Chancery Inq. p. m., 23 Ed. Ill, No. 79. 


alone. The most numerous are in the month of Septem- 
ber.* The non-beneficed clergy are, of course, not in- 
cluded in this number; and in the city alone, at the end 
of Edward the Third's reign, there were at least fifty or 
sixty of this class. In one parish, for example, that of 
St. John by the Riverside, there were nine non-beneficed 
vicars and six chaplains.^ In August a new prioress was 
installed at St. Mary's, Chester, and a new prior at 

From the ministers' accounts for the County Palatine 
of Chester, at this period, some facts can be gleaned as 
to the general state of desolation to which the great 
sickness reduced it. Thus, in the manor of Frodsham, 
the bailiff returns the receipt of only twenty shillings 
rent for the lands of the manor farm, " received for 66 
animals feeding on them." He adds, " and not more this 
year, because he could get no tenants by reason of the 
pestilence." Further, he notes the general prices as being 
low, and names a mill and a bakehouse that cannot be 
let. As an instance of the decay of rent it is noted that 
in the town of Netherton, more than a year after the 
plague had ceased, eleven houses and a great quantity 
of land, which fell into the hands of the lord in the last 
year through the pestilence, " remain yet in his hands ; " 
the same also is remarked of other townships, and in 
one place the miller had been allowed a reduction in his 
rent on account of the way his business had fallen off 
since the disease.' 

In the same way on another manor, that of Bucklow, 
at Michaelmas 1350, it is stated that 215 acres of arable 

* B. Mus. Harl. MS. 2071, ff. 159-160. 

" R. O., Clerical Subsidy, 51 Ed. Ill, ^, 

^ R. O., Q. R. Mins. Accts., Bundle 801, No. 14. 


land are lying waste, " for which no tenants can be found 
through the pestilence," which had visited the place the 
previous year. Further, those who had held a portion of 
the manor land during the last year had given their 
holdings up at the feast of St Michael at the beginning 
of the account (i>., 1349). On the same estate the rent 
of a garden was put down at only 12^., because there 
was no one to buy the produce. One of the laigest 
receipts was 3s. 6d., paid by one Mai^ery del Holes, 
" for the turf of divers tenants of the manor who had 
died in the time of the pestilence." On the whole of the 
estate there is represented to be a decrease of ;^20 gs. 2\d, 
in the rent of this year, and a good part of the deficit is 
accounted for by the fact that 34 tenants owe various 
sums, but cannot pay as they have nothing but their 
crops, and that 46 of the tenants had been carried off by 
the epidemic. 

On the estate, moreover, it is not uninteresting to note 
that a portion — no less, indeed, than a third part — of the 
rent was remitted at this time. The remission, however, 
hardly appears to have been made willingly, but in con- 
sequence of a threat on the part of the holders of the 
manor lands that unless it was granted they would leave. 
This is noted upon the roll : " In money remitted to the 
tenants of Rudheath (some four miles from Northwich) 
by the Justices of Chester and others, by the advice of 
the lord, for the third part of their rent by reason of the 
plague which had been raging, because the tenants there 
wished to depart and leave the holdings on the lord's 
hands, unless they obtained this remission until the 
world do come better again, and the holdings possess a 
greater value . . . ;fio 13J. ii|^/. ^ 

^ R. O., Q. R., Mins. Accts., Bundle 801, No. 4. 


Eastward, the adjoining county is Derbyshire. An 
examination of the institutions for this county has been 
made by the Rev. Dr. Cox for his work on the Churches 
of Derbyshire. The result of his studies may here be 
given almost in his words. In May, 1349, there is 
evidence that the plague had reached Derbyshire. At 
that period the total number of benefices in the county 
was 108, and the average number of institutions registered 
yearly during the century was only seven. In 1 346 the 
actual number had been but four, in 1347 only two, and 
in 1348 it was eight. In the year of the plague, 1349, no 
fewer than sixty-three institutions to vacant benefices 
are registered, and " in the following year (many of the 
vacant benefices not being filled up till then) they 
numbered forty-one." In this period seventy-seven of 
the beneficed clergy died; that is considerably more 
than half the total number, and twenty-two more re- 
signed their livings. 

" Of the three vicars of Derby churches two died, whilst 
the third resigned. The chantry priest of our Lady at 
St. Peter's Church also died. The two rectors of Ecking- 
ton both died, and of the three rectors who then shared 
the rectory of Derley two died and one resigned. The 
rectories of Langwith and Mugginton, and the vicarages 
of Barlborough, Bolsover, Horsley, Longford, Sutton-on- 
the-Hill, and Willington were twice emptied by the 
plague, and three successive vicars of Pentrich all fell in 
the same fatal year. Nor were the regular clergy more 
fortunate, for the abbots of Beauchief, Dale, and Derley, 
the prior of Gresley, the prior of the Dominicans at 
Derby, and the prioress of King's Mead, were all 
taken." ^ 

' Notes on the Churches of Derbyshire. Introduction, p. viii. 


The same author has called attention to some obituary 
notes in the calendar prefixed to the Chartulary of 
Derley abbey. 

" A glance at this obituary," he says, " is sufBcient to 
draw the attention of the reader to the remarkable 
number of deaths in the year 1 349. . . . Of the character 
of the plague we can form some idea when we consider 
the extent of its ravages in a single household — a house- 
hold the most wealthy of the neighbourhood, and situated 
in as healthy and uncrowded a spot as any that could 
be found on all the fair hillsides of Derbyshire. Within 
three months Sir William de Wakebridge lost his father, 
his wife, three brothers, two sisters, and a sister-in-law. 
Sir William, on succeeding to the Wakebridge estate, 
through this sad list of fatalities, appears to have aban- 
doned the profession of arms and to have devoted a very 
large share of his wealth to the service of God in his 
own neighbourhood. The great plague had the effect of 
thoroughly unstringing the consciences of many of the 
survivors, and a lamentable outbreak of profligacy was 
the result." 

The accounts for the Lordship of Drakelow, some four 
miles from Burton-on-Trent, may be taken as a sample 
of what must have been the case elsewhere. There is 
noted a loss, to begin with, " upon turf sold from the 
waste of the manor to tenants who had died in the time 
of the pestilence." The decrease of rent is very con- 
siderable. From *' the customs of the manor there is 
nothing, because all these tenants died in the time of 
the plague." Then follow the names of seventy-four 
tenants, from all of whom only 13^. gfci. had been 
received in the period covered by the account, and prac- 
tically from the entire manor there had been no receipt 


except for grass. Then, instead of the harvest being 
gathered in, as before it had been, by means of the 
services of the tenants, this year paid-labour had to be 
employed at a cost of ;^22 i8s. lod. On the receipt side 
of the account appear the values of the cows, oxen, and 
horses of tenants who had died, and whose goods and 
animals passed into the possession of the lord of the 

In Nottinghamshire the proportion of deaths among 
the beneficed clergy is found, as in other cases, to be 
fully one-half the total number. Out of 126 benefices in 
the county the incumbent died in sixty-five.* 

Eastwards, again, the county of Lincoln lies between 
Nottinghamshire and the sea. At an early period Pope 
Clement VI granted to the priests and people of the 
city and diocese of Lincoln great indulgences at the hour 
of death, " since on their behalf a petition had been made 
to him which declared that the deadly pestilence had 
commenced in the said city and diocese." ' The extent 
of the county is large, and its endowed livings numerous. 
In all, not including its forty-nine monasteries, the 
beneficed clergy of the county numbered some 700, and 
from this some estimate may be formed of the probable 
number of clerics who died in Lincolnshire in the year 


The chronicle of Louth Park, a Cistercian abbey in 
the county, contains a brief note upon the epidemic. 
" This plague," it says, " laid low equally Jew, Christian, 
and Saracen; together it carried off confessor and peni- 

* R. O., Q. R. Mins. Accts., Bundle 801, file 3. 
" Seebohm, Black Deaths in Fortnightly Review^ Sept i, 1865^ 
p. 150. 
' Vatican Archives, Reg. Pontif., Rubrice Litteranim Clem. VI. 


tent In many places it did not leave even a fifth part 
of the people alive. It struck the whole world with 
terror. Such a plague has not been seen, or heard of, or 
recorded before this time, for it is thought so great a 
multitude of people were not overwhelmed by the waters 
of the deluge, which happened in the day of Noah. In 
this year many monks of Louth Park died; amongst 
them was Dom Walter de Luda, the Abbot, on July 
1 2th, who was much persecuted because of the manor of 
Cockrington, and he was buried before the high altar by 
the side of Sir Henry Vavasour, Knight To him Dom 
Richard de Lincoln succeeded the same day, canonically 
elected according to the institutes of our Lord and the 
Order." ' 

From a document relating to the Chapter of Lincoln 
it would appear that the Courts of Law did not sit every 
term, during the universal visitation. The dean and 
chapter complain that, whereas *' from time beyond all 
memory " they had received 6s. S^d, for some 66 acres 
of arable and four acres of meadow at Navenby, this 
year they had not done so. Still they were called upon 
to pay the King's dues. They appealed ; but there was 
no cause tried at Trinity anno 23® (1349) " because of the 
absence of our judges assigned to hold the common 
pleas, by reason of the plague then raging." * 

The audit of the Escheator's accounts for the county 
of Lincoln proves that the distress was very real. Saier 
de Rocheford, who held the office for Rutland and Lin- 
coln in 1351, sought to be relieved of ;f20 iSs. id., which 
he was charged to pay for money he should have re- 
ceived, on the ground that he had got nothing, " because 

* Chronicon de Parco Lude (Lincoln Record Society), pp. 38-39. 

* R. O., Rot. Claus., 24 Ed. Ill, m. 7. 


of the mortality." ' Three years later, moreover, he again 
pleads that he is unable to raise more, " because of the 
deadly pestilence of men and of tenants of the land, who 
died in the year 1349, and on account of the dearth of 
tenants " since. 

The people, he adds, were so impoverished that they 
could pay nothing for " Wapentakes." * 

Archbishop Zouche of York was apparently one of the 
first of the English prelates to recognise the gravity of 
the epidemic, which in 1348 was devastating Southern 
Europe, and ever creeping northwards towards England. 
Before the end of July, 1348, he wrote to his official at 
York, ordering prayers. " Since man's life on earth is a 
warfare," he writes, " those fighting amidst the miseries 
of this world are troubled by the uncertainty of a future, 
now propitious, now adverse. For the Lord Almighty 
sometimes permits those whom he loves to be chastised, 
since strength, by the infusion of spiritual grace, is made 
perfect in infirmity. It is known to all what a mortal 
pestilence and infection of the atmosphere is hanging 
over various parts of the world, and especially England, 
in these days. This, indeed, is caused by the sins of men 
who, made callous by prosperity, neglect to remember the 
benefits of the Supreme Giver." He goes on to say that it 
is only by prayer that the scourge can be turned away, and 
he, therefore, orders that in all parish churches, on every 
Wednesday and Friday, there shall be processions and 
litanies, "and in all masses there be said the special prayer 
for the stay of pestilence and infection of this kind." ' 

* R. O., L. T. R. Memoranda Roll, 25 Ed. III. 
^ /did,, 28 Ed. Ill, Trinity term. 

' Raine, Historical Papers from Northern Registers (Rolls 
series), p. 395. 



Judging from a reply of the Pope to a petition of the 
Archbishop, it would be necessary to conclude that the 
plague had reached York as early as February, 1 349. It 
is, however, more probable that the petition was sent in 
the expectation that the scoui^e would certainly come 
sooner or later, and it was best to be prepared. From 
the dates of the institutions to vacant benefices, more- 
over, it would seem that the province of York suffered 
chiefly in the summer and autumn of the year 1349. 
Pope Clement VI, by letters to Archbishop Zouche, 
dated from Avignon as early as March 23rd, 1349, be- 
stowed the faculties and indulgences already mentioned 
as having been granted to other Bishops. This he did, 
as the letter says, " in response to a petition declaring 
that the deadly pestilence has commenced to afflict the 
city, diocese, and province of York." * 

The county of York contained at this date some 470 
benefices; or, counting monastic houses and hospitals, 
some 550. It has been pointed out that out of 141 livings 
in the West Riding, in which the incumbent changed 
in 1349, ninety-six vacancies are roistered as being 
caused by death, and in the East Riding 65 incumbents 
died against 61 who apparently survived.' In the deanery 
of Doncaster,' out of fifty-six lists of incumbents, printed 

* Raine, Historical Papers from Northern Registers (Rolls 
series), p. 399. 

^ Seebohm, Fortnightly Review^ Sept. ist, 1865. 

' Joseph Hunter, Deanery ofDoncaster. The following table will 
give the institutions in this deanery for some months of 1349: 















in the local history, a change is recorded in thirty. It 
may be concluded with certainty, from an examination 
of the printed lists of institutions for Yorkshire, that 
one-half at least of the clergy, generally, were carried 
off by the sickness. So serious did the mortality among 
the cathedral officials become that steps were taken to 
prevent the total cessation of business. In July, 1349, 
for instance, " it was ordained on account of the existing 
mortality of the pestilence that one canon, with the 
auditor and chapter clerk, might, in the absence of his 
fellows, grant vicarages and transact other matters of 
business as if the other canons were present, notwith- 
standing the statutes." * 

The Archbishop, too, sought and obtained from Pope 
Clement VI faculties to dispense with the usual eccle- 
siastical laws as to ordinations taking place only in the 
Emfcer weeks. " For fear the Divine worship may be 
diminished through want of ministers, or the cure and 
ruling of souls be neglected," writes the Pope, we grant 
leave to hold four extra ordinations during the year, 
since you say "that on account of the mortal pestil- 
ence, which at present rages in your Province," you fear 
that "priests may not be sufficient for the care and 
guidance of souls." ^ With this the Archbishop gives a 
specimen of the testimonial letters to be granted to 
such as were ordained under this faculty, reciting that 
it was given " because of the want of ecclesiastical 
ministers carried off by the pestilence lately existing in 
our Province." 

There is little doubt that the religious houses of the 
diocese suffered in a similar way. The abbots of Jervaulx 

» B. Mus. Harl. MS., 6971, fol. nob. 

* Raine, Historical Papers from Northerti Registers^ p. 491. 



and Rievaulx, Welbeck and Roche, the priors of Thur- 
garton, and Shelford, of Monkbretton, of Marton, of 
Haltemprice and Ferriby, are only some few of the 
superiors of religious houses who died at this time. 

For one of the monasteries of the county, Meaux, there 
exists a special account in the chronicles of the house. 
Abbot Hugh, it says, " besides himself had in the con- 
vent 42 monks and seven lay brethren; and the said 
abbot Hugh, after having ruled the monastery nine 
years, eleven months and eleven days, died in the great 
plague which was in the year 1 349, and 32 monks and 
lay brethren also died. 

" This pestilence so prevailed in our said monastery, 
as in other places, that in the month of August the abbot 
himself, 22 monks and six lay brethren died ; of these, 
the abbot and five monks were lying unburied in one 
day, and the others died, so that when the plague ceased, 
out of the said 50 monks and lay brethren, only ten 
monks with no lay brethren were left. 

"And from this the rents and possessions of the 
monastery began to diminish, particularly as a greatei 
part of our tenants in various places died, and the abbot 
prior, cellarer, bursar, and other men of years, and official 
dying left those, who remained alive after them, un 
acquainted with the property, possessions, and commoi 
goods of the monastery. The abbot died on 12th Augusi 
A.D. 1349"' 

In the Deanery of Holdemess, in which Meaux Abbe; 
was situated, there is evidence of great mortality. It i 
striking to observe how frequently the bailiffs and col 
lectors of royal rents and taxes are changed. It is by n^ 
means uncommon to find an account rendered by th 
^ CkrorUcon Monasterii de Melsa (Rolls series), iii, 37. 


executors of executors to the original official.* This 
evidence as to the great extent of the mortality here as 
in other places of England, and as to the consequent 
distress, is borne out by the Inquisitiones post mortem 
for the period. In one case, where the owner of the pro- 
perty had died on 28th July, 1349, it is said that 114 
acres of pasture were let at \2d, a year, "and not more 
this year because of the mortality and dearth of men." 
At ClifTe, on the same estate, the rents of customary 
tenants and tenants at will are stated to have been 
usually worth £\o Sj. a year; but in this special year 
they had produced only two shillings.' 

The chronicler of Meaux has described the disastrous 
consequences of the sickness in his own monastery. 
That this condition was not soon mended appears cer- 
tain from the fact that in 1354 it was found necessary to 
hand over the abbey, " on account of its miserable con- 
dition," to a royal commission.' 

The account of the King's Escheator in Yorkshire for 
the year, from October, 1349, to October, 1350, states 
that he could in no way obtain the sum of £^ I2J. 2rf., 
"due on certain lands and tenements from which he had 
levied and could levy nothing during the said time 
because of the mortality amongst men in those parts, 
and owing to the dearth of tenants willing to take up 
the said land and tenements." Then follows a list of 
houses standing vacant/ 

^ Cf, for example Mins. Accts. Yorks., Holdemess, 23-25 Ed. Ill, 
Bundle 355. 

* R. O., Chancery Inq. p. m., 23 Ed. Ill, ist series, No. 72. Cf. 
also No. 88. 

* Rot Pat., 28 Ed. Ill, pars i, m. 3. 

* R. O., L. T. R. Memoranda Roll, 25 Ed. III. 


As another instance may be quoted a case related 
in the history of the deanery of Doncaster. "John 
FitzWilliam, the heir of Sir William, had a short enjoy- 
ment of the family estates. He died in the great plague 
of 1349. I transcribe, to show public feeling at the time, 
from a chronicle: 'And in these daies was burying 
withoute sorrowe and wedding without frendschippe and 
fleying without refute of socoure; for many fled from 
place to place because of the pestilence; but yet they 
were effecte and myghte not skape the dethe.' 

" In another part of the deanery we find a person 
willing that his goods shall be divided among such of his 
children as shall remain alive. In the Fitz Williams MS. 
is a contemporary memorandum that John FitzWilliam, 
the father, gave in the time of the pestilence before his 
death all his goods and chattels, movable and immovable, 
to Dame Joan, his wife, John, his son, and AUeyn, 
late parson of Crosby, amounting to the sum of 
;f 288 3s. s^d:* ' 

An incident recorded by the same writer will serve to 
show how uncertain people, at this time, regarded the 
tenure of life, a feeling hardly to be wondered at when 
so many were dying all round them. Thomas AUott, 
of Wombwell, in the deanery of Doncaster, in his will, 
proved 14th September, 1349, after desiring to be buried 
at Darfield, says: "Item I leave, etc., to my sons and 
daughters living after this present mortal pestilence." ' 

These notes upon the evidence for the plague in York- 
shire may be concluded by a brief account of the state of 
Hull in consequence of the mortality and other causes. 

* Hunter, Deanery of Doncaster^ i, p. i. The InqutsUio post 
mortem of John Fitz William is in 1350. 

• Ibid,^ ii, p. 125. 


In 1353 the King," considering the waste and destruction 
which our town of Kingston-on-Hull has suffered, both 
through the overflow of the waters of the Humber and 
other causes, and that a great part of the people of the 
said town have died in the last deadly pestilence which 
raged in these parts, and that the remnant left in the 
town are so desolate and poverty-stricken in money," 
grants them permission to apply the fines ordered to be 
imposed on labourers and servants demanding higher 
wages than before, to the payment of the fifteenth they 
owe the royal exchequer.* 

Westward of Yorkshire the extensive but then sparsely 
populated county of Lancashire stretches between it and 
the Irish sea. Of this county there is practically little 
to be recorded. The number of benefices which existed 
in the county was about 65, whilst the number of 
chaplains and non-beneficed clergy generally must have 
greatly exceeded that number. In the deanery of 
Blackburn alone there were at the close of the reign of 
Edward III at least 55 capellani without benefices.* 
One document, of its kind unique, relating to Lancashire 
and to this great plague, is preserved in the Record 
OflSce. It was long a^o referred to by the late Professor 
Thorold Rogers, and is now printed in the English 
Historical Review, It is a statement of the supposed 
number of deaths during the incidence of the great 
pestilence in the deanery of Amounderness. Unfor- 
tunately, as perhaps might be expected in such a 
mortality, when death came so suddenly and men 
followed one another so rapidly to the grave that vast 
numbers had to be cast as quickly as possible into the 

^ Rot Pat, 27 Ed. Ill, pars i, m. 18. 
* R. O., Clerical Subsidy, y. 


same plague pit, the figures are clearly only approximate, 
being in every instance round numbers. Still, as they 
were adduced at a legal investigation and before a jury, 
when the facts of the visitation of Providence must have 
been fresh in the minds of those who heard the evidence, 
it is difficult to suppose that they are mere gross ex- 
aggerations, and may at least be taken as proof that the 
mortality in this district of Lancashire was very con- 

The paper in question is the record of a claim for the 
profits received, or supposed to have been received, by 
the dean of Amoundemess, acting as procurator for the 
Archdeacon of Richmond, for proof of wills, adminis- 
tration of intestate estates, and other matters, during the 
course of the plague of 1349. Ten parishes are named 
in the claim, including Preston, Lancaster, and Garstang, 
In those ten parishes it supposes that some 13,180 souls 
had died between September 8th, 1 349, and January 1 1 th, 
1350. In both Preston and Lancaster 3,000 are said to 
have been carried off, and in Garstang, 2,000. Nine 
benefices are declared to have been vacant, three ol 
them twice, whilst the chapel of St Mary Magdalene, at 
Preston, is stated to have been unserved for seven weeks. 
The Priory of Lytham is also noted as having been 
rendered vacant by the sickness, whilst 80 people of the 
village were said to have died at the same time.^ 

From the Patent rolls it would appear that Cartmel 
Priory, also, about this time lost its superior, as upon 
September 20th, 1349, the King's licence was granted tc 
the community to proceed to a new election.* 

^ R. O., Exchequer, Treasury of Receipt V*i i° English Historiccu 
Review^ v, p. 525 (July, 1890}. 
* Rot. Pat, 23 Ed. Ill, pars 3, m. 25. 


The counties of Westmoreland, to the north of Lanca- 
shire, with Cumberland, still further to the north again, 
carry the western part of England to the borders of 
Scotland. In the former there were some 57 beneficed 
clergy, and in the latter about 85. From these figures 
the approximate number of beneficed priests who died 
in the pestilence in the two counties may be guessed at 
about 72. 

The state of this borderland county of Cumberland 
was, even before the arrival of the plague in the district, 
deplorable. The Memoranda rolls of the period contain 
ample evidence that the Scottish invasions had rendered 
the land desolate and almost uninhabitable. Still the 
mortality added to the misery of the people. The few 
Inquisitiones post mortem afford little knowledge, beyond 
the fact that here also the dearth of tenants was severely 
felt' The audit of the accounts of Richard de Denton, 
late Vice-Sheriff of the County, is more precise in its 
information. He declares, in excuse for the smallness of 
his returns, that "the great part of the manor lands, 
attached to the King's Castle at Carlisle," has remained 
until the year of his account, 1354, waste and unculti- 
vated, " by reason of the mortal pestilence lately raging 
in those parts." Moreover, for one and a half years after 
the plague had passed, the entire lands remained " un- 
cultivated for lack of labourers and divers tenants. 
Mills, fishing, pastures, and meadow lands could not be 
let during that time for want of tenants willing to take 
the farms of those who died in the said plague." 

Richard de Denton then produced a schedule of par- 
ticulars, which may now be seen stitched on to the roll. 
This gives the items of decrease in rents; for instance, 
^ E,g,^ Escheator's Inq. p. m., series i, 430. 


there are houses, cottages, and lands to let, which used 
to bring in £Sf and now but ;f i ; " the farm of a garden 
belonging to the King, called King's Mead, is rented 
now at 13 shillings and fourpence less than it used to 
be," and so on. The jury, who were called to consider 
these statements, concluded that Richard de Denton 
had proved them, and they enter a verdict to that efiect, 
giving a list of the tenants, and adding " the said Richard 
says that all the last-mentioned tenants died in the said 
plague, and all the tenements have stood since empty 
through a dearth of tenants." * 

An indication of the same difficulties which beset the 
people of Cumberland at this time is found in the case of 
the prior of Hagham, an alien house, to farm which, 
during the time it was in the King's hands on account 
of his French war, the prior had been appointed, on 
condition of his paying the sum of threepence a day in 
rent to be paid to the Bishop of Carlisle. At this time 
he could not get even this out of the land, and could 
not live, by reason of the great deamess of provisions.* 

The city of Carlisle also in 1352 was relieved of taxa- 
. tion to a great extent, because " it is rendered void, and 
more than usual is depressed, by the mortal pestilence 
lately raging in those parts." 

The two remaining counties of England, Durham and 
Northumberland, were no exceptions to the general 
mortality. In the former there were some 93 beneficed 
clergy, and in the latter about 72, figures from which, on 
the usual calculation, may be deduced the numbers of 
the beneficed clergy who died at this time. 

In the Durham Cursitor records of this time a glimpse 

> R. O., L. T. R. Memoranda Roll, 28 Ed. Ill, m. 9. 
' R. O., Rot Claus., 25 Ed. Ill, m. 16. 


is afforded of the state of these northern counties. The 
Halmote courts were similar to the manor courts, and 
were held by commissioners appointed under the great 
seal of the Palatinate of Durham, by the Bishop's certi- 
ficate, to receive surrender of copyhold lands, to settle 
fines, contentions, and generally to transact the business 
of the estates. At one of these Halmote courts, held at 
Houghton on the 14th of July, 1349, it is recorded: 
" that there is no one who will pay the fine for any land, 
which is in the lord's hands through fear of the plague. 
And so all are in the same way of being proclaimed as 
defaulters until God shall bring some remedy." At 
another court " all refused their fines on account of the 
pestilence." In another, after stating the receipts, the 
record adds: "And not more on account of the poverty 
and pestilence ; " and one tenant " was unwilling to take 
the land in any other way, since even if he survived the 
plague, he absolutely refused to pay a fine." There are 
many similar instances in the records at this period, and 
in one case it is noted that " a man and his whole family 
had fled before the dreaded disease." ^ 

In Northumberland the case of the people was so 
desperate that in 1353 more than ;f 600, which was owing 
to the King for taxes for five and twenty parishes named, 
was allowed to stand over for some months since it was 
hopeless to press for payment* 

Of Newcastle the same story is told. " It has been 
shown us," writes the King, " in a serious complaint by 
the men of Newcastle-on-Tyne, that, since very many 
merchants and other rich people who were wont to pay 
the greater part of the tenth, fifteenth, and other burdens 

^ R. O., Durham Cursitor Records, Bk. ii, ff. 2b, seqq, 
* Rot. Claus., 27 Ed. Ill, m. lod. 


of the town, have died in the deadly pestilence lately 
raging in the town, and since the population remaining 
alive, who were wont to live by their trading, are by th< 
said pestilence and other adverse causes in this time o 
war, so impoverished that they hardly possess suflicien 
to live upon," * they cannot now pay what is due. 

At Alnwick, still further north, the plague may h 
traced into the spring of the following year, 1350; a 
least, the chronicle of the abbey there states that " in th( 
year 1350 (which for them began March 25th) John 
abbot of Alnwick, died in the common mortality." 
Lastly, it is related by two contemporary authors tha 
the Scotch carried the disease over the borders int 
their own country. " The Scots," writes Knightor 
"hearing of the cruel pestilence among the Englisl 
thought this had happened to them as a judgment a 
the hand of God. They laughed at their enemies, an 
took as an oath the expression, 'Be the foul deth ( 
Engelond,' and so thinking that the terrible judgment c 
God had overwhelmed the English, they assembled i 
the forest of Selkirk with the intention of invadin 
England. The terrible mortality, however, came upo 
them, and the Scotch were scattered by the sudden an 
cruel death, and there died in a short time about fi^ 
thousand." * 

An account of the visitation given in the continuatic 
of a chronicle, probably written at the time, and possibl 

' Rot Claus, 24 Ed. Ill, pars 2, m. 5. 

* B. Mus. Cott MS., VitclL, E. xiv, foL 256. 

• Dr. Creighton {History 0/ Epidemics in Britain^ p. 1 19), spea 
ing of Scotland, says : *' The winter cold must have held it in che 
as regards the rest of Scotland ; for it is clear from Fordoun th 
its great season in that country generally was the year ijso.** 


by a monk at Tynemouth, may fitly conclude this 
review of the course of the epidemic in England ; telling, 
though it does, ever the same story, and reading like an 
echo of the plaint first raised in Europe on the shores of 
the Bosphorus and in the islands of the Mediterranean. 
"In the year of our Lord 1348, and in the month of 
August," writes this chronicler, " there began the deadly 
pestilence in England which three years previously had 
commenced in India, and then had spread through all 
Asia and Africa, and coming into Europe had depopu- 
lated Greece, Italy, Provence, Burgundy, Spain, Aqui- 
taine, Ireland, France, with its subject provinces, and at 
length England and Wales, so far, at least, as to the 
general mass of citizens and rustic folk and poor, but 
not princes and nobles. 

"So much so, that very many country towns and 
quarters of innumerable cities are left altogether without 
inhabitants. The churches or cemeteries before conse- 
crated did not suffice for the dead ; but new places out- 
side the cities and towns were at that time dedicated to 
that use by people and bishops. And the said mortality 
was so infectious in England that hardly one remained 
alive in any house it entered. Hence flight was regarded 
as the hope of safety by most, although such fugitives, 
for the most part, did not escape death in the mortality, 
although they obtained some delay in the sentence. 
Rectors and priests, and friars also, confessing the sick, 
by the hearing of the confessions, were so infected by 
that contagious disease that they died more quickly 
even than their penitents; and parents in many places 
refused intercourse with their children, and husband 
with wife." * 

^ B. Mus. Cott MS., Vitell., A. xx, foL 56. 



SO far, the course of the epidemic in England hs 
been followed from south to north. It is now nece 
sary to consider some statistics and immediate resull 
of the plague. 

The diocese of Salisbury comprised the three countic 
of Dorset, Wilts, and Berkshire. The total number ( 
appointments made by the Bishop, in his entire diocesi 
is said to have been 202 in the period from March 25tl 
1348, to March 25th, 1349; and 243 during the sam 
time in the year following.* Of this total number of 44 
it is safe to say that two-thirds were institutions 1 
vacancies due to the plague. Roughly speaking, then 
fore, in these three counties, comprised in the diocese < 
Sarum, some 300 beneficed clergy, at least, fell victin 
to the scourge. 

The county of Dorset may first be taken. The list ( 
institutions taken from the Salisbury episcopal register 
given in Hutchins' history of that county, numbers 21 
During the incidence of the plague ninety of thei 
record a change of incumbent, so that, roughly, aboi 
half the benefices were rendered vacant. In sever 
cases, moreover, during the progress of the epidemi 
changes are recorded twice or three times, so that tl 

' B. Mus. HarL MS. 6979, f. 64. 


total number of institutions made to Dorsetshire livings 
at this time was no. As regards the non-beneficed 
clergy, secular and regular, their proportion to those 
holding benefices will be considered in the concluding 
chapter. Here it is sufficient to observe that the pro- 
portion commonly suggested is far too low. 

It is almost by chance that any information is afforded 
as to the effect of the visitation in the religious houses. 
All contemporary authorities, both abroad and in Eng- 
land, agree in stating that the disease was always most 
virulent and spread most rapidly where numbers were 
gathered together, and that, when once it seized upon 
any house, it usually claimed many victims. Conse- 
quently when it appears that early in November, 1348, 
the abbot of Abbotsbury died, and that about Christmas 
Day of that year John de Henton, the abbot of the 
great monastery of Sherborne, also died, it is more than 
probable that many of the brethren of those monasteries 
were also carried off by the scourge. 

In the county of Wilts the average number of epis- 
copal institutions, for three years before and three years 
after the mortality, was only 26. In the year 1348 there 
are 73 institutions recorded in the registers, and in 1349 
no less a number than 103,^ so that of the 176 vacancies 
filled in the two years the deaths of only some 52 in- 
cumbents were probably due to normal causes, and the 
rest, or some 125 priests holding benefices in the county, 
may be said to have died from the plague. 

A chance entry upon the Patent roll reveals the state 
of one monastery in this county. The prior of Ederos, 
or Ivychurch, a house of Augustinian canons, died on 

^ InsHtuHanes cUricorum in Comitatu Wiltoniaey ed. Sir J. 


February 2nd, 1349/ On February 25th the King was 
informed that death had carried off the entire com- 
munity with one single exception. " Know ye," runs the 
King's letter, dated March i6th, "that since the Vener- 
able Father Robert, Bishop of Salisbury, cannot hold the 
usual election of prior in the Monastery of Ederos in his 
diocese, vacant by the death of the last prior of the same, 
since all the other canons of the same house, in which 
hitherto there has been a community of thirteen canons 
regular, have died, except only one canon, brother James 
de Grundwell, we appoint him custodian of the posses- 
sions, the Bishop testifying that he is a fit and propei 
person for the office.* 

The general state of the county of Wilts after the 
epidemic had passed is well illustrated from some Wilt- 
shire Inquisitiones post mortem. Sir Henry Husee, foi 
instance, had died on the 21st of June, 1349. He owned 
a small property in the county. Some 300 acres of pas- 
ture were returned upon oath, by a jury of the neigh- 
bourhood, as " of no value because all the tenants an 
dead."* Again John Lestraunge, of Whitchurch, \ 
Shropshire gentleman, had half the manor of Broughton 
in the county of Wilts. He died on July the 20th, 1345 
and the inquisition was held on August the 30th. A 
that time it is declared that only seven shillings hai 
been received as rent from a single tenant, "and no 
more this year, because all the other tenants, as well a 
the natives, are dead, and their land is all in the hand c 
the lord."* 

* Originalia Roll, 23 Ed. Ill, m. 37. 

» Rot Pat, 23 Ed. Ill, pars i, m. 20. 

* R. O., Chancery Inq. p. m., 23 Ed. Ill (ist numbers), Na JT, 

* Ibid., No. 78. 


So, too, on the manor of Caleston, belonging to Henry 
de Wilington, who died on May the 23rd, 1349, it is said 
that water-mills are destroyed and worthless ; of the six 
native tenants two have died, and their lands are in hand ; 
and of the ten cottars, each of whom paid i2d. for his 
holding, four have been carried off with all their 
family.' In other places of the same county woods are 
declared to be valueless, " for want of buyers, on account 
of the pestilence amongst the population ; " * from tenants 
who used to pay £^ a year there is now obtained only 
6^., because all but three free tenants have been swept 
away;' 140 acres of land and twelve cottages, formerly 
in the occupation of natives of a manor, are all now in 
hand, "as all are dead."* So, too, at East Grinstead, 
seven miles from Salisbury, on the death of Mary, wife 
of Stephen de Tumby, in the August of 1349, it is found 
that only three tenants are left on the estate, " and not 
more because John Wadebrok and Walter Wadebrok, 
Stephen and Thomas and John Kerde, Richard le Frer, 
Ralph Bodde, and Thomas the Tanner, tenants in 
bondage," who held certain tenements and lands, are all 
dead, and their holdings are left in the hands of the 
lord of the manor. Also, on the same estate, William 
le Hanaker, John Pompe, Edmund Saleman, John 
Whermeter, and John Gerde, jun., have also been swept 
away by the all-prevailing pestilence. 

Such examples as these will enable the reader to 
understand the terrible mortality produced by this 
visitation, and in some measure to appreciate the social 
difficulties and changes produced by the sudden re- 

^ R. O., Chancery Inq. p. m., 23 Ed. Ill (ist numbers). No. 74. 

» Ilnd., No. 87. 

^ Escheator's Inq. p. m., Series i, file 95. ^ Ibid. 


moval of so large a number of the population from every 
part of the country. 

To pass on to the neighbouring county of Somerset 
The institutions given in the episcopal registers of the 
diocese of Bath and Wells show that the mortality had 
already commenced in the county as early as November, 

1348. The average number of inductions to livings in 
the county in each month of 1348, previous to November, 
was less than three ; in November it was nine, and in the 
following month thirty-two. During the next year, 

1349, the total number of clergy instituted to the vacant 
livings of the diocese by the Bishop was 232, against an 
average in a normal year of 35. For the two years, 
1348 and 1349, consequently, out of the 297 benefices 
to which institutions were made, some 227 may be 
said, with fair certainty, to have been rendered vacant 
by the great mortality which then raged in this and 
other counties of England. 

It must be borne in mind that the death of every 
priest implied the deaths of very many of his flock, so 
that, if no other information were attainable, some idea 
of the extent of the sickness among the laity may be 
obtained. It cannot but be believed that the people 
generally suffered as greatly as the clei^, and that, 
proportionally, as many of them fell victims to the 
scourge. If the proportion of priests to lay folk was 
then (as some writers have suggested) about one to fifty 
— an estimate, however, which would seem to be con- 
siderably above the actual relation of laymen to those 
in sacred orders at that time — the reader can easily form 
some notion of the terrible mortality among the people 
of Somersetshire in the first half of 1349. 

Some slight information, however, is afforded as to the 


actual state of the county in one or two instances. In 
each manor throughout the country there was held 
periodically what was known as the Court of the manor. 
At this assembly the business of the estate, so far as the 
tenants were concerned, was transacted before a chosen 
and sworn jury. Holders of land under the lord of the 
manor came before the court to claim their tenements 
and land as the rightful heirs of tenants deceased, to pay 
their heriots or fines due to the lord on every entry of a 
new holder. At this assembly, too, matters of police, the 
infringement of local customs, and often disputes be- 
tween the tenants themselves, were disposed of by the 
officials of the manor. The record of the business of 
such courts is known as the Court roll, and these docu- 
ments give some information about the extent of the 
mortality among the manorial tenants. Here, however, 
just as in the case of the institutions of clergy, where the 
actual incumbent only is registered and no account is 
taken of the larger body of non-beneficed clergy, so on 
the Court roll only the actual holder of the land is 
entered, and no notice is taken of the members of his 
family, or of others in the district, such as labourers and 
servants, etc., who were not actual tenants of the manor. 
Unfortunately the Court rolls for this period are 
often, if not generally, found to be missing. They are 
either lost, or the disorganised state of the country con- 
sequent upon the great mortality did not permit of the 
court being held. There are, however, quite sufficient of 
these records to afford a tolerably good idea of what 
must have happened pretty generally throughout the 
country. Dr. Jessopp has been able by the use of the 
Norfolk Court rolls to present his readers with a vivid 
picture of the havoc made by the plague in East Anglia. 



As an illustration of the same, some notes from a few 
Court rolls of West of England manors may here be 

The records of the royal manor of Gillingham, in 
the county of Dorset, show that at a court, held on 
" Wednesday next after the feast of St Lucy (13 De- 
cember), 1348," heriots were paid on the deaths of some 
twenty-eight tenants, and the total receipts on this 
account, which at ordinary courts amounted to but a 
few shillings, were £28 1 5 j. Sd. Further, at the same 
sittings, the bailiflf notes that he has in hand the lands 
and tenements of about thirty tenants, who had appar- 
ently left no heir to succeed to their holdings. In 
numbers of cases it is declared that no heriot has been 
paid, and this although the receipts on this score at the 
sitting of the court, and on many subsequent sittings, 
are unusually large. At another court, held early in the 
following year (1349) the names of two-and-twent> 
tenants of the manor are recorded as having died, and 
two large slips of parchment, belonging to the coun 
held on May 6th, give the lists of dead tenants. Thuf 
in the ty thing of Gillingham alone forty-five deaths arc 
recorded, and in the neighbouring tything of Bourtor 

The next example may be taken from the rolls of s 
Wiltshire manor, and ought, perhaps, to have been givei 
in the account of the plague in that county. On Jun< 
the nth, 1349, a court was held at Stockton, some sevei 
miles from Warminster, consequently only a short dis 
tance from the boundaries of Somerset The manor, b 

* Records of the Manor of Gillingham, which I was pennitted t( 
examine by the kindness of the present Steward of the Manoi 
R. Freame, Esq., of Gillingham. 


it remarked, was evidently only a very small one. On 
the parchment record it is stated that since the previous 
Martinmas (November nth, 1348) no court had been 
held, and from the entries upon the roll it appears that 
out of a small body of tenants on this estate fourteen 
had died. How many had been carried off in each 
household does not, of course, appear, but in the 
majority of instances it looks very much as if the dead 
tenant had left no heir behind him/ 

A third instance is taken from the Court roll of the 
manor of Chedzoy, near Bridgwater. The plague had 
made its appearance at Bridgwater, as before related, 
some time previous to November 2 ist, 1 348. It was to be 
expected, therefore, that the rolls of a manor only three 
miles off would show some sign of the mortality among 
the tenants about the same period. As a matter of fact 
a glance through the parchment record of a court held 
on St. Katherine's day, November 25th, 1348, shows that 
it had made its appearance some time between Sep- 
tember 29th and November 25th. On this latter day 
some few of the tenants of the manor are noted as dead, 
and three or four fairly large holdings have also fallen 
into the hands of the lord of the manor, no heirs being 
forthcoming. Amongst others, one William Hammond, 
who had rented and worked a water-mill, at a place 
called le Slap^ had been carried off by the sickness. The 
house, it is noted, had since, up to the date of the court, 
stood vacant. The mill wheel no longer spun round at 
its work, for William Hammond, the miller, had left no 
one to succeed him in his occupation. 

But this was only a beginning. The next court was 
held on Thursday after the Epiphany, January 8th, 1349. 
* B. Mus. Add. Roll 24,335. 


What a terrible Christmas time it must have been for 
those Somersetshire villagers on the low-lying ground 
about Bridgwater, flooded and sodden by the long 
months of incessant rain I At least twenty more tenant 
are marked off* upon the roll as dead, and as in this case 
the actual days of their deaths are given, it is clear the 
plague claimed many victims in this neighbourhooc 
about the close of December, 1348. 

Between this and March 23rd, 1349, the sickness was a 
its worst in this manor of Chedzoy. The record of th( 
proceedings at the court, held on " Monday after th 
feast of St. Benedict," 1349, occupies two long skins 
parchment closely written on both sides. Some 50 or 6 
fines are paid by new tenants on their taking possessioi 
of the lands and houses, which had belonged to other 
now dead and gone. Again, who can tell how many ha 
perished in each house? One thing is absolutely clea 
In this single Somerset village many homes had bee 
left vacant without a solitary inhabitant; many wex 
taken over by new tenants not connected with the ol 
occupier; and in more than one instance people carr 
forward to act as guardians to young children who ha 
apparently been left alone in the world by the death < 
every near relative. Take an instance. At this cou 
one John Cran, who, by the way, took up the house an 
lands formerly held by his father, who is said to ha> 
died, also agreed with the officer of the court to taA 
charge of William, the son of Nicholas atte Slope, f< 
the said Nicholas, and apparently every other ne: 
relative of the boy William had perished in the sicknes 

In this same court of March 23rd also several la 
cases are disposed of, for they had been settled by tl 
death of one or other or both of the parties. Thus, ; 


January, 1349, a claim had been laid, at the sitting of 
the court, against one John Lager, for the return of some 
cattle by three tenants, William, John, and Roger Riche- 
man. At the March sitting of the court in due course 
the case was called on. No plaintiffs, however, appeared, 
and inquiry elicited the fact that all three had died in 
the great pestilence. 

The actual document which contains these particulars 
has, moreover, a tale of its own to tell. The long entries 
on these two skins of parchment are not all in the same 
hand. Before the record of the heavy business done at 
this court had been all transcribed, the clerk was changed. 
The hand which had so long kept the rolls of these 
Manor Courts ceases to write. What happened to him ? 
Did he too die? Of course nothing can be known for 
certain, but it is not difficult to conjecture why another 
at this very time takes up the writing of the Chedzoy 
manor records.^ 

Another glimpse of the desolate state to which the 
country was generally reduced by this disastrous sick- 
ness is afforded by the case of Hinton and Witham, the 
two Somerset Carthusian houses. The King had en- 
deavoured by every means in his power to restrain the 
tenants, who survived the plague, from leaving their old 
holdings and seeking for others where they could better 
themselves. Not only were fines ordered to be inflicted 
upon such labourers and tenants as endeavoured to take 
advantage of the market rise in wages, but under simi- 
lar penalties landowners were prohibited from giving 
employment to them. That such a law must have 

^ B. Mus. Add. Rolls 15,961-6. Perhaps the Richard Hammond 
capellanus who had a mill and six acres, and who is reported as 
among the dead, may have been the scribe. 


proved hard in the case of those owning manors, ir 
which some or all of the tenants and labourers had died 
is obvious. It was this hardship which some years afte 
the epidemic, in 1354, made the Carthusians of Withan 
plead for some mitigation of the royal decree. " Our be 
loved in Christ, the prior and brethren of the Carthusiai 
Order at Witham, in the county of Somerset," runs tb( 
King's reply, "have petitioned us that since their sai( 
house and all their lands and tenements thereto belong 
ing are within a close in the forest of Selwood, place( 
far from every town, and they possess no domain beyonc 
the said close, they have nothing to support the prioi 
and his brethren," (and this) " both because almost al 
their servants and retainers died in the last pestilence 
and because by reason of a command lately made by u< 
and our Parliament, in which inter alia it is ordered tha 
servants should not leave their villages and parishes ii 
which they dwelt, as long as they could be hired there 
they have been brought to great need on account of th( 
want of servants and labourers. Further, that a lai^ 
part of their lands (for this same reason) remain wasti 
and untilled, and the corn in the rest of their estate 
which had been sown at the time of harvest, had miser 
ably rotted as it could not be gathered for lack o 
reapers. By this they have been brought into great an< 
manifest poverty.'' Looking at the circumstances, there 
fore, the King permits them for the future to engag 
servants and workmen on reasonable wages above th< 
legal sum, provided that their time of service elsewher 
had expired.* 

The second instance is recorded in the following yeai 
1355, and has reference to difficulties springing from thi 
^ Rot. Pat., 28 Ed. Ill, pars i, m. 20 (i6th January, 1354). 


same regulations as to the employment of labourers: 
" The prior and brethren of the Carthusians of Hinton, 
in the county of Somerset, have petitioned us/* says the 
King, " that seeing that they have no support except by 
the tiJage of their lands, and that the greatest part of 
their estates, for want of workmen and servants from 
the time of the last pestilence, have been unused and 
still renain uncultivated, and that they cannot get any 
labourers to work their lands," (and further) " that as 
many pecple and tenants were wont to weave the woollen 
cloth for the clothes of the brethren from their wool, 
and do other various services for them, now through 
fear of our orders as to servants that they may not re- 
ceive greater salaries and stipends from the said breth- 
ren, CO not dare to serve them as before, and so leave 
their dwelling, so that the brethren cannot get cloth to 
clothe themselves properly," they beg that these orders 
may ye relaxed in their regard. To which petition the 
King assented, allowing the Carthusians of Hinton to 
pay tie wages they had been used to do.* 

Tk diocese of Exeter, comprising the two counties of 
Devoi and Cornwall, was stricken by the disease ap- 
parenly about the same time as the county of Somerset. 
The hstitutions made by the Bishop of the diocese, in 
January, 1349, number some 30, which shows that death 
had aready been busy among the clergy. The average 
numhr of livings annually rendered vacant in the two 
countes during the eight years previous to 1348 was 
only 6. In the year 1349 the vacancies were 382, and 
the nimber of appointments to vacant livings, in each of 
the fie months from March to July, was actually larger 
than the previous yearly average. It would appear, 
^Rot. Pat., 29 Ed. Ill, pars 2, m. 4 (October 5th, 1355). 


therefore, that in 1 349 some 346 vacancies may reason- 
ably be ascribed to the prevailing sickness. 

In looking over the lists of institutions it is evident 
that the eflfect of sickness was felt for some years. It is 
not until 1353 that the normal average is again reached. 
The year following the epidemic the number of vacancies 
filled up was 80, and even in 135 1 it still remained at the 
high figure of 57. It is curious to note in these years 
that numerous benefices lapsed to the Bishop These 
must have been vacant six months, at least, tefore the 
dates when they were filled by Bishop Qrandisson. 
Sometimes, no doubt, patrons were dead, feaving no 
heirs behind them. Sometimes, in all probibilit;/, the 
patron could find no one to fill the cure. Further, the 
number of resignations of benefices during this period 
would appear to point to the fact that many living! were 
now found to be too miserably poor to afford a bare 

After the sickness was over here, as in other pats of 
England, the desolation and distress is evidencd by 
chance references in the inquisitions. Thus at Lyiford, 
a manor on Dartmoor, the King's escheator returs the 
value of a mill at fifteen shillings, in place of the prvious 
value of double that amount, because " most of tb ten- 
ants, who used to grind their com at it, have died n the 
plague." It is the same at other places in the ounty, 
and in one case 30 holdings are named as having fallen 
into the hands of the lord of the manor.^ 

A bundle of accounts for the Duchy of Lanaster 

gives a good idea of the eflfect of the pestilence in i^orn- 

wall. The roll is for the year from Michaelmas^ 3 50, 

and includes the accounts of several manors i the 

^ R. O., Escheator's Accts., ^. 


Deanery of Trigg, such as Helston, Tintagel, and others, 
in the district about the river Camel. In one it is noted 
that " this year there are no buyers;" in another only 
two youths pay poll tax, two more have not paid, as 
they have been put in charge of some land, " and the 
rest have died in the pestilence." In the same place 
pasture, which usually let for 3^. 4//., now, " because of 
the pestilence," fetched only 2od. ; the holdings of five 
tenants are named as in hand, as well as nine other tene- 
ments and 214 acres of land. Again, in another place 
the rent has diminished by £7 14s., because 14 holdings 
and 102 acres are in hand, together with two fulling 
mills; on the other hand credit is given for Ss. iirf., the 
value of the goods and chattels of the natives of the 
manor who have died. And so the roll proceeds through 
the accounts of some twelve or fourteen manors, and 
everywhere the same story of desolation appears. Be- 
sides numerous holdings and hundreds of acres, repre- 
sented as in hand and producing nothing, entire hamlets 
are named as having been depopulated. The decay in 
rent of one manor alone is set down at £30 6s. ifrf. 

Attached to the account of Helston, in Trigg, is a 
skin giving a list of goods and effects of different tenants 
named which the lord Prince " occupied." There are 57 
items in this list, which includes goods of all sorts, from 
an article of female dress and a golden buckle to ploughs 
and copper dishes; and the total value of the goods 
which thus fell into the hands of the Black Prince, pre- 
sumably by the death of his tenants without heirs, is 
£16 iSs. Sd. 

At Tintagel it is noted that the " fifty shillings pre- 
viously paid each year as stipend to the chaplain who 
celebrated in the chapel, was not paid this year, be- 


cause no one would stay to minister there for the sa 
stipend" * 

On the 29th May, 1350, the Black Prince, in view 
the great distress throughout the district, authorised I 
officials to remit one-fourth part of the rents of the tc 
ants who were left, " for fear they should through pc 
erty depart from their holdings." ' But John Tremaj 
the receiver of the revenues of the Prince in Comwc 
states that even in the years 1352 and 1353, so far frc 
the estates there showing any recovery, they were in 
more deplorable state still. " For the said two years," 
relates, " he has not been able to let (the lands), nor 
raise or obtain an3^ing from the said lands and tei 
ments, because the said tenements for the most p 
have remained unoccupied, and the lands lain waste ; 
want of tenants (in the place of those) who died in t 
mortal pestilence lately raging in the said county." ' 

The loss of the episcopal registers of London for tl 
period makes it impossible to form any certain estims 
of the deaths in the ranks of the clergy of the capi 
during the progress of the epidemic. London contair 
within its walls, at that time, some 140 parish churcti 
exclusive of the large number of religious hou 
grouped together in its precincts. It is not unreasona 
to suppose that the mortality here was greater than el 
where. The population was closely packed in nari 
streets, the religious houses were exceptionally nuna 
ous, and many of them, from their very situation, co 
have had but very little space. It has already been s< 
how fatal was the entry of the plague into any hoi 

^ R. O., Duchy of Lancaster Mins. Accts., No. 817. 

» Ibid, 

' R. O., L. T. R. Memoranda Roll, 28 Ed. Ill (Trinity Tern 


and consequently the proportion of deaths among the 
regulars in London was doubtless greater than else- 
where, whilst other causes must have also contributed to 
raise the roll of death among the seculars.^ 

The diocese of London included, with Middlesex, the 
county of Essex and a portion of Hertfordshire. The 
benefices of the county of Essex were in number some 
265, and, like the actual institutions of the Middlesex 
clergy for this period, those made in the county of Essex 
are unknown. By July, 1 349, the consequences of the 
scourge clearly appear in the Inquisitiones post mortem 
for this county. In one manor ten acres of meadow, 
which had formerly been let for twenty shillings, this 
year produced only half that amount,." because of the 
common pestilence." For the same reason the arable land 
had fallen in value, and a water-mill was idle, as there 
was no miller. In another place a holding of 140 acres of 
arable land was lying waste. "It cannot be let at all," says 
the Inquisition, " but if it could be let, it would be worth 
but eleven shillings and sixpence" only, in place of twenty- 
three shillings. Here, too, pasture had fallen fifty per 
cent in value, and the wood that had been cut could not 
be sold. So, too, at a manor near Maldon, in this county, 
prices had fallen to half the previous value, and here the 
additional information is given that, out of eleven native 
tenants of the manor eight have died, and their tene- 
ments and land were in hand. It is the same in every 

' Judging by the ordination lists in the London Registers, the 
proportion of non-beneficed clergy was very large. In the twelve 
years, from 1362 to 1374, Bishop Sudbury ordained to the priest- 
hood 456 regulars and 809 non-beneficed dergy, against 237 
beneficed priests. According to this proportion, the non-beneficed 
would be six times as numerous as the beneficed. 


instance; rents had dropped, owing to the catastrophe 
to one-half. Arable, meadow, and pasture could be ob- 
tained this year in Essex anywhere at such a reductioa 
Other estate receipts had fallen equally. In one place 
court fees were three in place of the usual six shillings 
and the manor dove-house brought in one instead of twc 
shillings. Water-mills were at a greater discount even 
than this. One, at a place called Longford, was valued 
at twenty shillings in place of sixty shillings, and even 
at this reduction there is considerable doubt expressed 
whether it will let at all. 

Lastly, to take one more example in the county oi 
Essex. An inquiry was made as to the lands held b> 
the abbot of Colchester, who died on August the 24th 
1349. In this it appears that, in the manors of East and 
West Denny, 320 acres of arable land had fallen in 
yearly value from four to two pence an acre; 14 acre* 
of meadow from iSd. to Sd.; the woods are valueless 
"because there are no buyers;" and out of six native 
tenants two are dead. In another place four out of si?< 
have been carried off; in another, only two are left oul 
of geven. The rent of assize, it is declared, is only £4 
" and no more, because most of the land is in hand." * 

No account has been preserved of the ravages of the 
pestilence at the abbey of Colchester; but the death o 
the abbot at this time makes it not unlikely that th< 
disease was as disastrous here as in other monasteries o 
which there is preserved some record. • It is known thai 
the town suffered considerably. " One of the most strik 
ing effects was," writes one author, "that wills to th< 

^ R. O., Escheator's Inq. p. m., Series i, file 165. Also Md^ fil 
166. Esch. Accts., W; W- 0"- also, Exch. Q. R. Mins. Accts. 
Bundle 869, No. 9. 


unusual number of iii were enrolled at Colchester, 
which at that time had the privilege of their probate and 
enrolment." * 

Talkeley, an alien priory in Essex, was reduced to 
complete destitution. It was a cell of St. Valery's 
Abbey, in Picardy, and when seized into the King's 
hands on account of the war with France, the prior was 
allowed to hold the lands on condition of his paying 
£1263. year into the royal purse. Two years after the 
plague had visited the county this payment had fallen 
into arrears, " by reason of the pestilence lately raging, 
from which time the said land remained uncultivated, 
and the holdings, from which the revenues of the priory 
were derived, remained unoccupied after the death of 
the tenants. So terribly is it impoverished that it has 
nothing upon which to live, and on account of the arrears 
no one is willing to rent the lands and tenements of the 
priory." In the end the King was compelled to forgive 
the arrears of rent.'^ 

In the county of Hertfordshire 34 benefices were in 
the diocese of London, whilst 22 more were under the 
jurisdiction of no Bishop, but formed a peculiar of the 
abbey of St. Alban's. In both of these consequently the 
actual institutions made in the year of the great plague 
are unknown. For the portion within the diocese of 
Lincoln 27 institutions were made in the summer of 
1349; so that probably at least 50 Hertfordshire clergy 
died at this time. 

The values of land and produce fell, as in other places. 
In one instance, given in an Inquisitio post mortem into 
the estate of Thomas Fitz-Eustace, the lands and tene- 

* T. Cromwell, History of Colchester^ J, p. 75- 
' R. O., Originalia Roil, 25 Ed. Ill, m. 10. 


ments, formerly valued at 67 shillings, were on the 3rd 
of August this year, 1349, estimated to produce onl) 
13 shillings, and this only "if the pasture can be let" 
In the same way the Benedictine convent of Cheshunt 
in the county, is declared shortly afterwards "to Ix 
oppressed with such poverty in these days that the com 
munity have not wherewith to live." ' 

Again the destitution and poverty produced by th( 
pestilence is evidenced in the case of some lands in th< 
county, given by Sir Thomas Chedworth to Anglese) 
priory in Cambridgeshire. It had been agreed, shortlj 
before the scourge had fallen upon England, that th< 
monastery should for this benefaction endow a chanti] 
of two secular priests. In 1351, however, the state o 
Anglesey priory, consequent on the fall in rents, mad( 
this impossible, and the obligation was, through th< 
Bishop, readjusted, and the new document recites: "Care 
fully considering the great and ruinous miseries whid 
have occurred on account of the vast mortality of ma 
in these days, to wit, that lands lie uncultivated in in 
numerable places, not a few tenements daily decay an< 
are pulled down, rents and services cannot be levied, no 
the advantage thereof, generally had, can be received 
but a much smaller profit is obliged to be taken thai 
heretofore," the community shall now be bound to fin< 
one priest only, whose stipend shall be five marks yearl; 
instead of six as appointed, the value of the propert; 
being thus estimated at less than half what it had beei 

* Escheator's Inq. p. m.. Series i, file 165. 

• Rot Pat., 25 Ed. Ill, pars 3, m. 4. 

» B. Mus. Cole MS., 5824, foL 86. Cf, Dr. Cunningham, Grtnut 
of English Industry and Commerce^ p. 505. 


In Buckinghamshire there were at the time between 
180 and 200 benefices, in the county of Bedford some 
1 20 and in Berkshire 162. From these a calculation of 
the probable number of incumbents carried off in 1349 
by the sickness may be made. 

As some indication of the state to which these counties 
were reduced by the scourge, a petition of the sheriff of 
Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire, made to the King 
in 1353, may be here mentioned. He declared that it 
was impossible then to pay into the Exchequer the old 
sums for the farming of the hundreds, which had been 
usual "before the late pestilence." Coming before the 
King in February, 1353, he not only urged his petition, 
but claimed to have ;f 66 returned to him, which he had 
paid over and above his receipts. For the years 135 1 and 
1 352 he had paid ;f 132 for these rents, as had been usual 
since 1342; but he claimed that "from the time of the 
pestilence the bailiffs of the hundreds had been unwill- 
ing to take them on such terms." An inquiry by a jury 
was held in both counties, and it was declared "that 
since 1351 the bailiffs of the hundreds had been able 
to obtain nothing for certain — except what they could 
get by extortion — from the county. Further, that the 
inhabitants of the said county were now so diminished 
and impoverished that the bailiffs were able to get 
nothing for the farms in that year, 1351." In the same 
way also John Chastiloun, the sheriff, had received 
nothing whatever for his office. In the end the sum 
claimed was allowed.* 

In the Canterbury portion of the county of Kent there 
were some 280 benefices, which number may form the 

' R. O., L. T. R. Memoranda Roll, 27 Ed. Ill (Hilary term), 
m. 7. 


basis for a calculation of the death roll. The condition 
to which this portion of England was reduced may be 
estimated from one or two examples. In 1352 the 
prioress and nuns of the house of St. James' outside 
Canterbury were allowed to be free from the tax of a 
fifteenth granted to the King, because they were re- 
duced to such destitution that they had nothing beyond 
what was necessary to support them.^ Even the Cathe- 
dral priory of Christchurch itself had to plead poverty. 
About 1350 the monks addressed petitions to the Bishop 
of Rochester asking him to give them the church ol 
Westerham " to help them to maintain their traditional 
hospitality." They say that "by the great pestilence 
affecting man and beast/* they are unable to do this, and 
as arguments to induce the Bishop to allow this impro- 
priation, they state that they have lost 257 oxen, 511 
cows, and 4,585 sheep, worth together ;f792 12s. 6d 
Further they state that "1,212 acres of land, formerly 
profitable, are inundated by the sea," apparently fronc 
want of labourers to maintain the sea walls.'^ 

The neighbouring county of Sussex, at the time of the 
appearance of the disease, counted some 320 benefices 
From the Patent rolls it appears that in 1349 the Kin; 
presented to as many as 26 livings in the county 
amongst these no less than five were at Hasting^s, at Al 
Saints', St. Clement's, St. Leonards, and two at the Fr« 

In Hampshire, including the Isle of Wight, the aver 

^ Rot. Claus., 26 Ed. Ill, m. 7. 

• Hist AfSS. Comm^y Fifth Report^ p. 444. These lands wer 
apparently the Appledore Marshes, which subsequently cost th< 
monastery £zs^ t® reclaim. 

■ Sussex Archaological Society^ voL xxi, pp. 44, seqq. 


age annual number of appointments to benefices for 
three years previous to the pestilence was 21; in 1349 no 
fewer than 228 institutions are registered, so that it may 
fairly be said that over 200 beneficed clergy were carried 
off by the sickness. 

In the county of Surrey the total number of institu- 
tions in 1349 was as high as 92, against a previous aver- 
age of a little over nine yearly, so that here, as in Hants, 
the number of vacancies of livings was this year in- 
creased tenfold. It may fairly be argued that of the 
number 92, some 80, at least, of the vacancies were 
caused by the epidemic. Several examples have already 
been given of the havoc wrought by the epidemic in 
religious houses in which it had effected an entrance. 
Where the head of a community was carried off, it is 
practically certain many of the members also would 
have perished, and it can be doubted by no one who ex- 
amines the facts that the pestilence was not only terrible 
at the time, but had a lasting and permanent effect 
upon the state of the monastic houses. This point may 
be illustrated by some of the monasteries of the diocese 
of Winchester. 

In the city itself the prior of St. Swithun's and the 
abbess of St. Mary's Benedictine convent both died, and 
there is evidence that a large proportion of both these 
communities must have perished at the same time, as well 
as many at the abbey of Hyde. To take the cathedral 
priory of St. Swithun's first. In 1325, four and twenty 
years before the great mortality, the monks in the house 
were 64 in number.* Of these the 12 juniors on the list 
had not at that time received the subdiaconate. The 
34th in order in the community had been ordained 
^ Reg. Pontissera, foL 143. 


deacon on December 19th, 13 10, and all the thirty be- 
low him were his juniors. It is fair to consider that 
about 60 was the normal number previous to the year 
1 349.* After that date they were reduced to a number 
which varied between 35 and 40. In 1387 William of 
Wykeham exhorted the community to use every effort 
to get up their strength to the original 60 members;' 
but notwithstanding all their endeavours they were on 
Wykeham's death, in a.d. 1404, only 42. At Bishop 
Wayneflete*s election, in 1447, there were only 39 
monks; three years later only 35; and in A.D. 1487 
their number had fallen to 30, at which figure it re- 
mained till the final dissolution of the house in the reign 
of Henry VI 1 1.' 

' This may be considered the number in the previous centuiy 
from the Annales de Wintonia, 

* Reg. Wykeham, ii, foL 226. 

* The following table gives the number of monks belonging to 
Winchester Cathedral Priory at the annexed dates : 

Date. Occasion. Number. 

A.D. 1260 Episcopal Election 62 

A.D. 1325 Living in the Priory on October 

9th 64 

A.D. 1404 Episcopal Election 42 

A.D. 1416*17 On Chamberlain's Rolls ... 39 and 2 juniors at 

A.D. 1422-3 On Chamberlain's Rolls ... 29 to 32 and S 

juniors at schools. 
A.D. 1427-8 On Chamberlain's Rolls . . . 35 to 36 
A.D. 1 447 Episcopal Election on the death 

of Cardinal Beaufort ... 39 

A.D. 1450 Election of Prior 35 

A.D. 1468 Episcopal Election 30 and 2 or 3 at 


A.D. 1498 Election of Prior 31 

A.D. 1524 Election of Prior 30 (none below sub- 
deacons named) 


The neighbouring abbey of Hyde, a house of con- 
siderable importance, with a community of probably 
between thirty and forty monks, a century later had 
fallen to only twenty. In 1488 it had risen to twenty- 
four, and eight of these had joined within the previous 
three years. At the beginning of the sixteenth century, 
in 1509, the community again consisted of twenty; but 
on the eve of the final destruction of the abbey there are 
some signs of a recovery, the house then consisting of 
twenty-six members, four of whom were novices. So 
impoverished was the house by the consequences of the 
great mortality that in 1352 the community were forced 
in order " to avoid," as they say, " the final destruction 
of their house," and " on account of their pitiful poverty 
and want, to relieve their absolute necessity," to sur- 
render their possessions into the hands of Bishop 

Financial difficulties also overwhelmed and nearly 
brought to ruin the Benedictine Convent of St. Mary's, 
which was reduced to about one half their former num- 
ber. To the same generous benefactor, Bishop Edyndon, 
they were indebted for their escape from extinction. In 
fact, it would appear that at this time many, if not most, 
of the religious houses of the diocese were protected and 
supported by the liberality of the Bishop and his rela- 
tives, whom he interested in the work of preserving 
from threatened destruction these monastic establish- 
ments. In the document by which the nuns of St. 
Mary's acknowledge Bishop Edyndon as their second 
founder, they say that "he counted it a pious and 
pleasing thing mercifully to come to their assistance 
when overwhelmed by poverty, and when, in these days, 
^ Harl. MS., 1761, f. 20. 


evil doing was on the increase and the world was growing 
worse, they were brought to the necessity of secret beg- 
ging. It was at such a time that the same father, with 
the eye of compassion, seeing that from the banning 
our monastery was slenderly provided with lands and 
possessions, and that now we and our house, by the bar- 
renness of our land, by the destruction of our woods, and 
by the diminution or taking away from the monaster)' 
of due and appointed rents, because of the dearth of 
tenants carried off by the unheard-of and unwonted 
pestilence," came to our assistance to avert our entire 

Six months later the nuns of Romsey, in almost the 
same words, acknowledged their indebtedness to the 
Bishop.* Here the results of the pestilence upon the 
convent, as regards numbers, are even more remarkable 
than in the instances already given. At the election ol 
an abbess in A.D. 1333 there were present to record theii 
votes 90 nuns. Early in May, 1349 — that is only it 
years later — ^the abbess died, for the royal assent wa5 
given to the election of her successor, Joan Gemeys, oe 
May 7th of that year.' What happened to the com 
munity can be gathered by the fact that in 1478 theii 
number is found reduced to 18, and they never ros( 
above 25 until their final suppression. 

The various bodies of friars must have suffered quit( 
as severely as the rest of the clergy. It is, however, verj 
difficult to obtain any definite information about these 
mendicant orders; but some slight indication of th( 
dearth of members they must have experienced at thi: 

^ Rot Claus., 28 Ed. Ill, m. 3d (dated February 6th, 1353). 

• /W/., m. 6 (July 8th). 

* Rot. Pat, 23 Ed. Ill, pars i% m. 13. 


period in common with all other bodies in England, ec- 
clesiastical and lay, is to be found in the episcopal re- 
gisters of the period. In the diocese of Winchester, for 
example, the Augustinians had only one convent, at 
Winchester. From September, 1346, to June, 1348, they 
presented four subjects for ordination to the priest- 
hood; from that time till Biishop Edyndon's death, in 
October, 1366, only two more were ordained, both on 
22nd December, 1358. The Friars Minor had two 
houses, one at Winchester, the other at Southampton ; 
for these, in 1347 and 1348, three priests were ordained. 
From that time till the 21st of December, 1359, no more 
received orders. Then two were made priests; but no 
further ordinations are recorded until after Bishop Edyn- 
don's death. The same extraordinary want of subjects 
appears in the case of the Carmelites. With them, be- 
tween 1 346 and 1 348, eleven subjects received the priest- 
hood. The next Carmelite ordained was in December, 
1357, and only three in all were made priests between 
the great plague and the close of the year 1366. The 
Dominicans also had only one priest ordained in ten 
years, that is in the period from March, 1349, to Decem- 
ber, 1359. 

Owing to the mortality having swept away so many 
of their tenants, and other consequences traceable to the 
mortality, the priory of St. Swithun's became heavily 
involved in debt. On the 31st of December, 1352, 
Bishop Edyndon determined to make a careful inquiry 
into the state of his cathedral monastery, and wrote to 
that effect to the prior and convent. He says in his let- 
ter that he has heard how the temporalities have suffered 
severely " in these days, both by the deaths of tenants of 
the church, from which there has come a grave diminu- 


tion of rent and services, and from various other cause 
unknown, and that it is burdened with excessive debts.' 
As he himself was occupied in the King's service, he pro 
poses to send some officers to inquire into these matters 
and b^s the monks to assist them in every way. Ht 
further says that it is reported to him " that in this oui 
church the former fervour of devotion in the divine ser 
vice and regular observance has grown lukewarm ; " thai 
both the monastery and out-buildings are falling tc 
ruins; that "guests are not received there so honourabl} 
as before; on which account we wonder not a little," he 
continues, " and are troubled the more because so faj 
you have not informed us " of these things. He appoint: 
January 21st, 1353, for the beginning of the inquiry, and 
in a second document names three priests, including 2 
canon of the diocese of Sarum and the rector of Froyle 
in Hampshire, to hold it.^ 

Shortly after this, on January 14th, 1353, Bishop Edyn 
don ordered a similar inquiry to be made as to the state 
of Christchurch priory, which was also heavily in debt' 
That the house had been seriously diminished in mem- 
bers seems more than probable in view of the fact that 
from the date of the plague till the beginning of 1366 nc 
subject of the house was ordained priest. 

The hospital of Sandown, in Surrey, was left, as be- 
fore said, without a single inmate. On June ist, 1349, the 
Bishop, in giving it into the care of a priest named 
William de Coleton, says: "Since all and everyone ol 
the brethren of the Hospital of the blessed Mary Mag- 
dalen of Sandown, in our diocese, to whom on a vacancy 
of the office of prior, or guardian, the election belonged, 
are dead in the mortality of men raging in the kingdom 
* Reg. Edyndon, ii, ff. 27b, 28. * /^V/., fol. 28. 


of England, none of the brethren being left, the said 
hospital is destitute both of head and members." ^ 

The same state of financial ruin is known to have 
existed in the case of Shirebome priory. On 8th June, 
1350, Bishop Edyndon wrote to the abbot and convent 
of St Vigor of C^risy saying that Shireborne, which was 
said to be a dependency of the abbey, was fallen into 
great poverty. " The oblations of sacrifices had ceased, 
and from very hunger the devotion of priests was grown 
tepid ; the buildings were falling to ruins, and its fruitful 
fields, now that the labourers were carried off, were 
barren." The priory could not hope, he considered, to 
recover " in their days," and so, with the consent of the 
patron, he requested the abbot to recall four of the monks 
to the abbey, the priory then containing the superior and 
seven religious. The same day a letter was sent to the 
prior of Shireborne directing that this should be at once 
carried out* 

One fact will be sufficient to show the state to which 
the diocese was reduced after the plague had passed. 
On the 9th of April, 1350, the Bishop issued a general 
admonition to his clergy as to residence on their cures. 
It had been reported to him, he says, that some priests, 
to whom the cure of souls had been committed, "neglect- 
ing, with danger to many souls," this charge, " have most 
shamefully absented themselves from their churches," so 
that " even the divine sacrifices," for which these churches 
had been built and adorned, " had been left off." The 
sacred buildings were, he says, " left to birds and beasts," 
and they neither kept the church in repair nor repaired 
what was falling to ruins, " on which account the general 
state of the churches is one of ruin." He consequently 
^ Reg. Edyndon, i, fol. 49b. ^ /^iV/., ii, fol. 23b. 


orders all priests to return to their cures within a month, 
or to get proper and fitting substitutes.* 

In the June of the same year (1350) a special moni- 
tion was issued to William Elyot, rector of a church near 
Basingstoke, to return at once to his living, as the church 
had been left without service. A month later, on the 
loth of July, 1350, the Bishop published a joint letter of 
the Archbishop and Bishops ordering priests to serve 
the churches at the previous stipends, and he adds that 
every parish church must be contented with one chaplain 
only, ''until those parish and prebendal churches and 
chapels which are now, or may hereafter be, unserved, be 
properly supplied with chaplains.' 

There are many indications of the misery and suffer- 
ing to which the people generally were reduced in these 
parts. Thus, for example, the King, whose compassion 
and tenderness, by the way, are very rarely manifested, 
remits the tax of the fifteenth due to him in the case of 
his tenants in the Isle of Wight This he does, " taking 
into account the divers burdens which " these tenants 
have borne, " for the men and tenants of our manors now 
dead and whose lands and tenements by their deaths 
have come into our hands." ' A glance at the institutions 
to benefices in the island will show that at one time 
or another during the prevalence of the plague nearly 
every living became vacant, and some more than once. 

The town of Portsmouth, also, was forced to plead 
poverty, and ask the remission of a tax of ;^I2 12s, 2^., 
because "by the attacks of our enemies the French, 
fires, and other adverse chances the inhabitants were 

^ Reg. Edyndon, ii, fol. 22b. 

' /feV/., ii, fol. 23b. 

' Rot. Claus., 27 Ed. Ill, m. 19. 


very much depressed."^ That the "other adverse 
chances " refers to the desolation caused by the pestilence 
appears from another grant, of relief for eight years, 
made to the town the previous year, because it was so 
impoverished " both by the pestilence and by the burn- 
ing and destruction of the place by our enemies." * 

The neighbouring island of Hayling was in even a 
worse plight after the pestilence. "The inhabitants of 
Stoke, Eaststoke, Northwood, Southwood, Mengham, 
Weston, and Hayling, in the island of Hayling, have 
shown to us," says the King, in 1352, "that they are 
greatly impoverished by expenses and burdens for the 
defence of the said island against the attacks of the 
French, and by the great wasting of their lands by in- 
road of the sea, as well as by the abandonment of the 
island by some who were wont to bear the burdens of 
the said island. Those consequently who are left would 
have to pay more than double the usual tax were it 
now levied. Moreover since the greatest part of the said 
population died whilst the plague was raging, now, 
through the dearth of servants and labourers, the in- 
habitants are oppressed and daily are falling most 
miserably into greater poverty. Taking into account all 
this, the King orders the collector of taxes for South- 
ampton not to require the old amount, but to be content 
with only £6 i^s. 7\d^ Three years later Hayling 
priory, which as one of the alien houses then in the 
King's hands had been paying a large rent into the 
royal exchequer in place of sending it over to their 
foreign mother house, was relieved by the King of the 

» Rot. Glaus., 26 Ed. Ill, m. 12. 

» /did., 2S Ed. Ill, m. 21. 

^ Originalia Roll, 29 Ed. Ill, m. 8. 


payment of £S7, as it was " much oppressed in these 

Even in Winchester difficulties as to taxation, at thii 
time, led to many people leaving the city. Citizens, ai 
the document relating to it declares, who have long livec 
there, " because of the taxation and other burdens now 
pressing on them, are leaving the said city with the pro 
perty they have made in the place, so as not to con 
tribute to the said taxes. And they, betaking them 
selves to other localities in the county, are leaving th< 
said city desolate and without inhabitants, to our (i.c. 
the King's) great hurt." • 

An Inquisitio post mortem for a Hampshire manoi 
taken in 1350, shows the fall in prices of lands and pro 
duce after the mortality. Eighty acres of arable land 
which in normal times had been let for two mark 
(13J. 4^.), now produced only 6s. 8</., or just one-hall 
being at the rent of id. per acre in place of two pena 
The same fall is to be seen in the rent of meadow lane 
which let now at 6d. instead of a shilling, and in th 
value of woods, 20 acres fetching only 20rf., in the plao 
of double that amount, which it u§ed to produce.* 

In Surrey it is the same story. In the inquiry mad 
as to the lands of William de Hastings, on the I2tl 
March, 1349, it is declared that the tenements let on th 
manor produce only thirty-six shillings because all th 
tenants but ten are dead, " and the other houses stam 
and remain empty for want of tenants, and so are of n 
value this year." In another case a water-mill is held b 

* Rot Claus., 26 Ed. Ill, m. 19. Cf. Rot. Pat, 26 Ed. II 
pars I, m. 6. 

' Rot Pat, 26 Ed. Ill, pars i% m. 28d. 
^ Escheator's Inq. p. m., series i, file 9a 


the jury to be worthless because " all the tenants who 
used It were dead." It had remained empty and no one 
could be found to rent it Of the land, 300 acres cannot 
be let. The court of the manor produced nothing, be- 
cause all are dead, and there are no receipts from the 
free tenants, which used to amount to £6 a year, " be- 
cause almost all the tenants on the said manor are dead, 
and their tenements remain empty for want of some to 
rent them."" 

In the absence of any definite information about the 
institutions of clergy in the county of Gloucester, it may 
be roughly estimated, from the number of benefices, that 
between 160 and 170 beneficed clergy in this district 
perished in the epidemic. Like other religious houses, 
the abbey of Winchcombe was impoverished by the con- 
sequences of the great mortality, and some years after 
it was unable to support its community and meet its 
liabilities. "By defect in past administration," as the 
document puts it, " it is burdened with great debt, and 
its state, from various causes, is so miserably im- 
poverished that it is necessary to place the custody of 
the temporalities in the hands of a commission" ap- 
pointed by the crown.* 

That this is no exaggerated view of the difficulties 
which beset the landed proprietors at the time, and that 
the origin of the misery must be sought for in the great 
pestilence, a passage in Smyth's Lives of the Berkeleys 
may help to show: " In the 23rd of this King," he writes, 
" so great was the plague within this lord's manor of 
Hame (in Gloucestershire) that so many workfolks as 
amounted to 1,144 days' work were hired to gather in 

^ Escheator's Inq. p. m., 22-23 ^d* m^ series i, file 64. 
" Rot. Pat, 27 Ed. Ill, m. 17. 


the com of that manor alone, as by their deaths fell into 
the lord's hands, or else were forsaken by them." * 

The priory of Lanthony, near Gloucester, i^-as brought 
to such straits that the community were forced to apply 
to the Bishop of Hereford to grant them one of the 
benefices in his diocese. They have been, they say, sc 
situated on the high road as to be obliged to give great 
hospitality at all times to rich and poor. Their property, 
in great part, was in Ireland, and it had been much 
diminished in value by the state of the country. The 
house was at this time, October 15th, 1351, so im- 
poverished by this and by a great fire, that, without aid, 
they could not keep up their charity. For " the rents oi 
the priory and the services, which the tenants and 
natives, or serfs of the said house living on their domain, 
have been wont yearly, and even daily, to pay and per- 
form for the religious serving God there, now, through 
the pestilence and unwonted mortality by which the 
people of the kingdom of England have been afflicted, 
and, as is known, almost blotted out, are for the greater 
part irreparably lost." * 

Some few years after the plague had passed an in- 
quisition held at Gloucester as to the state of the priory 
of Horsleigh reveals the fact that a great number of the 
tenants on the estate had died. Horsleigh was at that 
period a cell of the priory of Bruton, in Somerset, and 
the question before the jury at this inquiry was as to the 
dilapidations caused by the prior or minister of the 
dependent cell. They first found that all revenues from 
the estates at Horsleigh, after a reasonable amount had 
been allowed for the support of the prior and his brethren 

* Ed. Bristol and Gloucester Archaeological Society^ i, 307. 

* Reg. Heref. Trileck., foL 102. 


living in the cell, should be paid to the head house of 
Bruton. This the then prior, one Henry de Lyle, had 
not done. He had, moreover, dissipated the goods of his 
house by cutting down timber and underwood and sell- 
ing cattle. Amongst the rest he is declared to have sold 
" eighty oxen and cows which had come to the house as 
mortuaries or heriots of tenants who had died in the 
great pestilence." ' 

Dugdale, in his history of the county, prints some 175 
lists of incumbents of Warwickshire livings. In 76 cases 
there is noted a change at this period, and in several 
instances more than once is a new incumbent appointed 
to a living within a short period, so that in all there are 
some 93 institutions recorded. 

A glimpse of the state to which the county generally 
was reduced is afforded by some Inquisitiones po^t 
fnoriem. As soon after the plague as 1350, at Wappen- 
bury in Warwickshire, three houses, three cottages, and 
20 acres of land are described as valueless and lying 
vacant, because of the pestilence late past. At Alcester, 
on the estate of a man who died June 20th, 1349, rents 
are not received and tenements are in hand, " for the 
most part, through the death of the holders." Again, at 
Wilmacott, an inquiry was held as to the property of 
Elizabeth, daughter of John de Wyncote, who died loth 
August, 1349. It is declared that the mother died on 
loth June, and the daughter two months later, whilst the 
great part of the land is in the hand of the owner " by 
the death of the tenants in this present pestilence." * 

^ Bruton Chartulary, f. 121b. Prior Henry appears to have spent 
the money thus raised in the expense of a journey to Rome and 
Venice and back. The inquiry was held in June, 29 Ed. III. 

^ Escheator's Inq. p. m., Series i, file 240. 


On the estate of one who died in December, 1350, 
is certified that there used to be nine villeins, each fam 
ing half a virgate of land, for which they paid eigl 
shillings a year. Five of these had died, and their lar 
since had been lying idle and uncultivated. On anothi 
portion of the same, two out of four tenants, who had si 
acres of land each, have been carried off. 

On the manor of Whitchurch, owned by Margaret < 
la Beche, who died in the October of the plague y« 
1 349, it is noted that there are no court fees, as all tl 
tenements are in hand. And in May, 1351, of anoth 
Oxfordshire estate it is said that eight claimants out 
eighteen were dead, and no one was forthcoming to tal 
the land ; whilst on the same, out of six native tenant 
who had each paid 14 shillings, three are gone, and th( 
land has since remained untitled.^ 

One or two examples may be given of the difficult! 
subsequently experienced by the religious houses. T 
year after the plague had passed the Cistercian abbey 
Brueme was forced to seek the King's protection agair 
the royal provisors and the quartering of royal servar 
upon them. This Edward granted, " because it was 
such a bad state, that otherwise in a short time the 
would follow the total destruction of the said abbey, a 
the dispersal of the monks."' Even this protectic 
however, did not entirely mend matters, for three ye; 
later, " to avoid total ruin," the custody of the abbey m 
handed over to three commissioners." ' 

St Frideswide's, Oxford, was in much the same ca 
In May, 1349, as we may suppose from the death of t 

^ Escheator's Inq. p. m.. Series i, file 103. 
' Rot. Pat., 25 Ed. Ill, pars i% m. 16. 
' /W., 28Ed. Ill, m. 10. 


superior during the time of the epidemic at Oxford, the 
plague had visited the monastery, and had, in all prob- 
ability, carried off many of its inmates. The deaths of 
many of its tenants, moreover, must have gravely affected 
its financial condition, and three years later it was found 
necessary to put the temporalities in the hands of a 
commission. " By want of good government," it is said, 
" and through casual misfortunes, coming upon the said 
priory, both because of the debts by which it is much 
embarrassed, and for other causes," it is reduced to such 
a state that it might easily lead to the dispersal of the 
canons and the total destruction of the house/ 

Of the tenants of one manor belonging to a religious 
house in the county of Oxford, it is said " that in the 
time of the mortality of men or the pestilence, which was 
in the year 1349, there hardly remained two tenants on 
the said manor. These would have left had not brother 
Nicholas de Lipton, then abbot, made new agreements 
with these and other incoming tenants." * 

To take but two instances more in other parts of 

The year after the plague was over, in 1351, the abbey 
of Barlings had to plead poverty and to beg for the re- 
mission of a tax. It is true, they urge the building of 
their new church, but likewise declare that they have 
been "impoverished by many other causes." An /«- 
quisitio post mortem gives the same picture. Two caru- 
cates of land, for example, brought in only forty shil- 
lings, on account of the pestilence and general poverty 
and deaths of the tenants. "For a similar reason," a 
mill, which used to produce £2 in rent, now yields 

* Rot. Pat, 28 Ed. Ill, m. 3. 

* Quoted in Saturday Review^ Jan. 16, 1886, "The Manor." 


nothing; and so on throughout every particular of tiw 
large estate. 

In this part of the country, too, the King's officer ex 
perienced the greatest difficulties in getting his dues 
and the Escheator pleads, in mitigation of a soiall re 
turn, that during the whole of 1350 tenements have beei 
standing empty, in Gayton, near Towcester, in Weedor 
in Weston, and in Morton, ten miles from Brackley, a 
tenants cannot be found " by reason of the mortality. 
He further excuses himself for not levying on the land 
and goods of the people " on account of the pestilence.' 

' R. O., L. T. R. Memoranda Roll, 25 Ed. III. 



IT will be evident to all who have followed the sum- 
mary of the history of the epidemic of 1349, given in 
the preceding chapters, that throughout England the 
mortality must have been very great. Those who, having 
examined the records themselves, have the best right to 
form an opinion, are practically unanimous ja- consider- 
ing that the disease swept away fully one-half of the 
entire population of England and Wales. 

But whilst it is easy enough to state in general terms 
the proportion of the entire population which probably 
perished in the epidemic, any attempt to give even ap- 
proximate numbers is attended with the greatest diffi- 
culty and can hardly be satisfactory. At present we do 
not possess data sufficient to enable us to form the basis 
of any calculation worthy of the name. From the Sub- 
sidy Roll of 1377 — or some 27 years after the great 
mortality — it has been estimated that the population at 
the close of the reign of Edward III was about 2,350,000 
in England and Wales. The intervening years were 
marked by several more or less severe outbreaks of 
Eastern plague; and one year, 1361, would have been 
accounted most calamitous had not the memory of the 
fatal year 1349 somewhat overshadowed it. At the 
same time the French war continued to tax the strength 
of the country and levy its tithe upon the lives of Eng- 




lishmen. It may consequently be believed that t 
losses during the thirty years which followed the plag 
of 1349 would be sufficient to prevent any actual increa 
of the population, and that somewhere about two anc 
half millions of people were left in the country after t 
epidemic had ceased. If this be so, it is probable ti 
previous to the mortality the entire population of t 
country consisted of from four to five millions^ half 
whom perished in the fatal year/ 

On the other hand, whilst apparently allowing tt 
about one-half of the population perished, so eminent 
authority as the late Professor Thorold Rogers held tl 
the population of England in 1349 could hardly ha 
been greater than two-and-a-half millions, and *^ pre 
ably was not more than two millions." * The most rea 
authority, Dr. Cunningham, thinks that" the results (i 
of an inquiry into the number of the population) whi 
are of a somewhat negative character, may be stated 
follows: (i.) that the population was pretty nea 
stationary at over two millions from 1377 to the Tudo 
(ii.) that circumstances did not favour rapid increase 
population between 1350 and 1377; (iii.) that the coi 
try was not incapable of sustaining a much laq 
population in the earlier part of Edward I IPs reign tl 
it could maintain in the time of Henry VI."' Thus 1 
estimate first given, of the population previous to 1 
Black Death, may be taken as substantially the same 

» C/. T. Amyot, Population of English Cities^ temp, Ed. . 
{Archcuologia^ vol. xx, pp. 524-531). 

* England before and after the Black Death {Fortnightly Revi 
vol. viii, p. 191). 

■ W. Cunningham, Growth of English Industry and Comnu 


that adopted by Dr. Cunningham. Mr. Thorold Rogers, 
on the other hand, without entering into the question of 
figures, views the problem altogether from the stand- 
point of the land, the cultivated portion of which he 
considers incapable of supporting a larger population 
than he names. 

In the country at large the most striking and im-"^ 
mediate effect of the mortality was to bring about 
nothing less than a complete social revolution. Every--'^ 
where, although the well-to-do people were not exempt 
from the contagion, it was the p^r who were the chief 
sufferers. ** It is well known," wrote the late Professor 
Thorold Rogers, " that the Black Death, in England at 
least, spared the rich and took the poor. And no won- 
der. Living as the peasantry did in close, unclean huts, 
with no rooms above ground, without windows, artificial 
light, soap, linen; ignorant of certain vegetables, con- 
strained to live half the year on salt meat; scurvy, 
leprosy, and other diseases, which are engendered by 
hard living and the neglect of every sanitary precaution, 
were endemic among the population.^ 

The obvious and undoubted effect of the great mor- % 
tality among the working classes was to put a premium ' 
upon the services of those that survived. From all parts > 
of England comes the same cry for workers to gather in 
the harvests, to till the ground, and to guard the cattle. ; 
For years the same demands are re-echoed until the 

* Fortnightly Review^ viii, p. 192. This is, of course, true, but 
without qualification might give the reader a false impression as to 
the condition of the English peasant in the Middle Ages. Most of 
what Mr. Thorold Rogers says is applicable to all classes of society. 
Dr. Cunningham {Growth of English Industry and Commerce y 
p. 275) takes a truer view : " Life is more than meat, and though 
badly housed the ordinary villager was better fed and amused.'' 


landowners learnt from experience that the old metho 
of cultivation, and the old tenures of land, had be 
rendered impossible by the great scourge that had swe 
over the land. 

It was a hard time for the lai^ov^ers, who up to tl 
had had it, roughly speaking, altTIieir own way. Wi 
rent^ falling to half their value, with thousands of aci 
of land lying untitled and valueless, with cottages, mi 
and houses without tenants, and orchards, gardens, aj 
fields waste and desolate, there came a corresponds 
rise in the ppces of commodities. Everything that t 
landowner had to buy rose at once, as Professor Thorc 
Rogers pointed out, " $0, lOO, and even 200 per cen 
Iron, salt, and clothing doubled in value, and fish — a: 
in particular herrings, which formed so considerable 
part of the food of that generation — became dear I 
yond the reach of the multitude. " At that time," writ 
William Dene, the contemporary monk of Rochest 
** there was such a dearth and want of fish that peo] 
were obliged to eat meat on the Wednesdays, and 
command was issued that four herrings should be sc 
for a penny. But in Lent there was still such a want 
fish that many, who had been wont to live well, had 
content themselves with bread and potage." ^ 

Then that which had been specially thescoui^ge oft 
people at large began to be looked upon as likely 
prove a blessing in disguise. The landowner's need v 
recognised as the labourers' opportunity, upon whi 
' they were not slow to seize. Wa^es everywhere rose 
double the previous rate and more. In vain did t 
King and Council strive to prevent this by legislati< 
forbidding either the labourer to demand, or the mas 
^ B. Mus. CotL MS., Faust, B. v, foL 99b. 


to pay, more than the previous wage for work done. 
From the first the Act was inoperative, and the constant 
repetition of the royal commands, addressed to all parts 
of the country, as well as the frequent complaints of 
non-compliance with the regulations, are evidence, even 
if none other existed, of the futility of the legislation. 
Even when the King, taking into consideration "that 
many towns and hamlets, both through the pestilence 
and other causes, are so impoverished, and that many 
others are absolutely desolate," granted, if only the 
money were paid him in three months, that the fines 
levied on servants and others for demanding excessive 
wages, and on masters for giving them, might be allowed 
to go in relief of the tax of a tenth and fifteenth due to 
him,^ the justices appointed to obtain the money plead 
that they " cannot and have not been able to levy any 
of these penalties." ' The truth seems to be that masters 
generally pleaded the excessive wages they were called 
upon to pay, as an excuse for not finding money to 
meet the royal demands, and it was for this reason rather 
than out of consideration for the pockets of the better 
classes that Edward issued his proclamations to restrain 
the rise of wages. But he was quickly forced to under- 
stand " that workmen, servants, and labourers publicly 
disregarded his ordinances " as to wages and payments, 
and demanded, in spite of them, prices for their services 
as great as during the pestilence and after it, and even 
higher. For disobedience to the royal orders r^ulating 
wages, the King charged his judges to imprison all whom 
they might find guilty. Even this coercion was found to 
be no real remedy, but rather a means of aggravating 

^ R. O., Originalia Roll, 26 Ed. Ill, m. 27. 
' Ibid,^ 27 Ed. Ill, QL 19. 


the evil, since districts where his policy was carried oi 
were quickly found to be plunged in greater poverty b 
the imprisonment of those who could work, and of thoj 
who d^ced to pay the market price for labour/ 

K^ighto^ thus describes the situation : — " The Kir 
sent iHlo" each county of the kingdom orders th 
harvesters and other workmen should not obtain mo 
than they were wont to have, under penalties laid dov 
in the statute made for the purpose. But labourers we 
so elated and contentious that they did not pay attentic 
to the command of the King; and if anyone wanted 
hire them he was forced to pay them what was askc 
and so he had his choice either to lose his harvest ar 
crops, or give in to the proud and covetous desire of tl 
workmen. When this became known to the King, 1 
levied heavy fines upon the abbots, priors, and tl 
higher and lesser lords, as well as upon the greater ar 
smaller landowners in the country, because they had n 
obeyed his orders, and had given higher wages to th< 
labourers; from some he exacted iooj., from some 4c 
and from some 20f., and indeed from each as much as 
could be made to pay. And he took from every carucs 
throughout the whole kingdom 20^. besides a fifteentl 

" Then the King arrested very many labourers and p 
them in prison; and many fled and hid themselves 
forests and woods for the time, and those who wc 
caught were fined more severely still. And the greal 
number were sworn not to take higher daily wages th 
was customary, and were so liberated from prison, 
like manner he acted towards the artificers in towns a 

1 R. O., Originalia Roll, 26 Ed. Ill, m. 25. 
' Ed. Twysden, coL 2699. 


To this account of the labour difficulties which fol- 
lowed on the mortality may be added the relation of 
the Rochester contemporary, William D^e. " So great 
was the want of labourers and workmen of every art and 
craft," in those days, he writes, " that a third part and 
more of the land throughout the entire kingdom re- 
mained uncultivated. Labourers and skilled workmen 
became so rebellious that neither the King, nor the law, 
nor the justices, the guardians of the law, were able to 
punish them." ^ Many instances are to be found in the 
public documents at the period of combinations of work- 
men for the purpose of securing higher wages, and of their 
refusal to work at the old rate of payment customary 
before the great mortality had made the services of the 
survivors more valuable. This, in the language of the 
statute, is called " the malice of servants in husbandry." 
In the same way tenants who had survived the visita- 
tion refused to pay the old rents and threatened to leave 
their holdings unless substantial reductions were made 
by their landlords. Thus, in an instance already given, 
the landowner remitted a third part of the rent of his 
tenants, "because they would have gone off and left 
their holdings empty unless they had obtained this re- 

As a consequence of the great mortality among small 
tenant farmers and the labouring classes generally, and 
forced by the failure of legislation to cope practically 
with the " strike " organised by the survivors, the land- 
owners quickly despaired of carrying on the traditional 
system of cultivation with their own stock under bailiffs. 
Professor Thorold Rt)gers has pointed out that "very 

' B. Mus. Cott. MS., Faust, B. v, fol. 98b. 

* R. O., Q. R. Mins. Accts., Bundle 801, No. i. 


speedily after the plague, this system of farming by 
bailiff was discontinued, and that of farming on lease 
adopted." The difficulty experienced by the tenant of 
finding capital to work the farms at first led to the in- 
stitution of the stock and seed lease, which, after lasting 
till about the close of the fourteenth century, gave place 
to the ordinary land lease, with, of course, a certain 
fixity of tenure, which at this day we do not associate 
with that form of lease. Some landowners tried, with 
more or less success, to continue the old system; but 
these formed the exception, and by the banning of the 
next century the whole tenure of land had been changed 
in England by the great mortality of 1349, and by the 
operation of the " tr^es unioils," which sprung up at 
once among the survivors, and which are designated, in 
the statute against them, as '* alliances, covines, congre- 
gations, chapters, ordinances and oaths." 

The people all at once learnt their power, and became 
masters of the situation, and although for the next thirty 
years the lords and landowners fought against the com- 
plete overthrow of the mediaeval system of serfdom, 
from the year of the great mortality its fall was inevit- 
able, and practical emancipation was finally won by the 
popular rising of i J81. Even to the last, however, the 
landowning class appear to have remained in the dark 
as to the real issues at stake. They claimed the old 
labour rents, by which their manor lands had been 
worked, as well as the money payments for which they 
had been commuted, and they desired that the old ties 
of the tenant in villeinage to the soil of his lord should 
be maintained. Even Parliament was apparently at fault 
as to the danger which threatened the established 
system. It is impossible, however, to read the sermons 


of the period without seeing how entirely the clergy 
were with the people in their determination to secure 
full and entire liberty for themselves and their posterity, 
and it is probably to their countenance and advice that 
the preamble of an Act passed in the first year of 
Richard II refers, when it says: "Villeins withdraw 
their services and customs from their lords, by the com- 
fort and procurement of others, their counsellors, main- 
tainers and abettors, which have taken hire and profit 
of the said villeins and land tenants, by colour of certain 
exemplifications made out of Domesday, and affirm that 
they are discharged and will suffer no distress. Here- 
upon they gather themselves in great routs, and argue 
by such a confederacy that everyone shall resist their 
lords by force." 

One result of the change of land tenure should be 
noticed. Previously to the great plague of 1349 the land 
was divided up into small tenancies. An instance taken 
by Professor Rogers of a parish, where every man held 
a greater or less amount of land, is a typical example of 
thousands of manors all over the country. It shows, he 
says, " how generally the land was distributed," and that 
the small farms and portions of land, so remarkable in 
France at the present day, did prevail in England five 
hundred years ago. A great portion of this land, how- 
ever, although held by distinct tenants, lay in common, 
and it is a very general complaint at this period that, as 
the fields were undivided, they could not be used except 
by the multitude of tenants; which had been carried off 
by the great sickness. To render them profitable, under 
the condition of things consequent upon the new system 
of farming, these tracts of country had to be divided up 
by the plantation of hedges, which form now so distin- 


guishing a mark of the English landscape as compared 
with that of a foreign country. 

The population also having by the operation of the 
great mortality become already detached from the soil, 
before the final extinction of serfdom, their liberation 
resulted not, as in other countries, in the establishment 
of a large class of peasant proprietors, but in that of a 
small body of large landowners. 

Of course, again, such a phrase must not be inter- 
preted in the modem sense, whereby a " landowner " is 
an " owner " of land in a way which, in those days of 
custom and perpetuity of tenure, would not have been 
even understood. The change then effected rendered 
possible the character of the land settlement that now 

So terrible a mortality cannot but have had its effect 
and left its traces upon the education, arts, and architec- 
ture of the country. In the first, besides the temporary 
interference with the education at the Universities, " this 
pestilence forms," write the authors of the History oj 
Shrewsbury, " a remarkable era in the history of oui 
language. Before that time, ever since the Conquest 
the nobility and gentry of this country affected to con 
verse in French ; children even construed their lesson; 
at school into that language. So, at least, Higden telb 
us in his Polychronicon, But from the time of ' the firsi 
Moreyn,* as Trevisa, his translator, terms it, this * man 
ner ' was * som del ychaungide.' A school-master, namec 
Cornwall, was the first that introduced English into th< 
instruction of his pupils, and this example was so eagerlj 
followed that by the year 1385, when Trevisa wrote, i 
had become nearly general. The rfergy in all Christiai 
countries are the chief persons by wfaom^e educatioi 


of youth is conducted, and it is probable that the dread- 
ful scourge of which we have been treating, by carrying 
off many of those ancient instructors, enabled Mr. Corn- 
wall to work a change in the mode of teaching, which 
but for that event he would never have been able to 
effect, and which has operated so mighty a revolution in 
our national literature." 

With regard to architecture, traces of the effects of 
the great plague are to be seen in many places. In some 
cases great additions to existing buildings, which had 
only been partially executed, were put a stop to and 
never completed. In others they were finished only after 
a change had been made in the style in vogue when the 
great mortality swept over the country. Dr. Cox, in his 
Notes on the Churches of Derbyshire^ has remarked upon 
this. " The awful shock," he says, " thus given to the 
nation and to Europe at large by the Black Death para- (- 
lysed for a time every art and industry. The science of 
church architecture, then about at its height, was some 
years recovering from the blow. In some cases, as with 
the grand church of St. Nicholas, Yarmouth, where a 
splendid pair of western towers were being erected, the ,. 
work was stopped and never resumed. . . . The recol- 
lection of this great plague often helps to explain the 
break that the careful eye not unfrequently notes in 
church buildings of the 14th century, and accounts for 
the long period over which the works extended. We 
believe this to be the secret of the long stretch of years 
that elapsed before the noble church of Tideswell was 
completed in that century; and it also affords a clue to 
much other work interrupted, or suddenly undertaken, 
in several other fabrics of the country." * To this may 
^ Introduction, p. ix. 


be added the fact that the history of stained-glass manu- 
facture shows the same break with the past at this 
period. Not only just at this time does there appear a 
gap in the continuity of manufacture, but the first ex- 
amples after the great pestilence manifest a change in 
the style which had previously existed. 

In estimating the mortality among the ^ttjfgy it has 
been already noted that we have, in many instances, 
more certain data to work upon than in the case of the 
population at lai^e. In each county the number of in- 
stitutions to benefices during the plague has already been 
noticed, and in those cases where the actual figure cannot 
be ascertained from documentary evidence, half the total 
number of benefices has, in accordance with the general 
result where such evidence is available, been taken to 
represent the livings rendered vacant during that year. 
From this it would appear that in round figures some 
5,000 beneficed clergy fell victims to their duty. As 
already pointed out this number in reality represents 
only a portion of the clerical body; and in any estimate 
of the whole, allowance must be made for chaplains, 
chantry priests, religious, and others. 

It is, of course, possible to come to any conclusion as 
to the proportion of the beneficed to the unbeneficed 
cleigy only by very round numbers. Turning to the 
Winchester r^^ters, for example, we find that the 
aven^ number of priests ordained in the three yesLVS 
previous to 1349, was 1 1 1.^ The average number of in- 

' Of course, several of these would be ordained for other dioceses, 
but in the same way Winchester priests would be ordained by 
letters dimissory elsewhere, so that taking the whole of England 
we may assume a practical equalisation. In the diocese of London, 
as already stated (p. 203 a^/r}, the proportion of non-beneficed to 


stitutions to benefices annually during the same period 
was only twenty-one, so that these figures taken by 
themselves seem to show that the proportion of bene- 
ficed to unbeneficed clergy was about one to four. On 
this basis, and assuming the deaths of beneficed clergy 
to have been about 5,000, the total death roll in the 
clerical order would be some 25,000. 

This number, although very large, can hardly be con- 
sidered as excessive, when it is remembered that the 
peculiar nature of their priestly duties rendered the clergy 
specially liable to infection; whilst in the case of the 
religious, the mere fact of their living together in com- 
munity made the spread of the deadly conts^on in their 
ranks a certainty. The Bishops were strangely spared ; 
although it is certain that they did not shrink from their 
duty, but according to positive evidence remained at 
their posts. To their case are applicable the lines of the 
poet upon the like wonderful escape of the Bishop during 
the plague in the eighteenth century at Marseilles: 

Why drew Marseilles' good Bishop purer breath 
When nature sickened, and each gale was death?" ^ 

On the supposition that five-and-twenty thousand of 
the clerical body fell victims to the epidemic, and esti- 
mating that of the entire population of the country one 
in every hundred belonged to the clergy, and further 
that the death rate was about equal in both estates, the 
total mortality in the country would be some 2,500,000. 
This total is curiously the same as that estimated from 
the basis of population returns made at the close of the 
memorable reign of Edward III, evidencing, namely, a 

beneficed clergy ordained during 12 years, from 1362 to 1374, was 
nearly six to one. 

' Pope, Essay on Matty lines 107-8. 


total population, before the outbreak of the epidemic, o 
some five millions.^ 

It remains now briefly to point out some of the un 
doubted effects, which followed from this great disaster 
upon the Church. It is obvious that the sudden remova 
of so lai^e a proportion of the clerical body must have 
caused a breach in the continuity of the best traditions 
of ecclesiastical usage and teaching. Absolute necessity 
moreover, compelled the Bishops to institute young anc 
inexperienced, if not entirely uneducated clerics, to th( 
vacant livings, and this cannot but have had its effeci 
upon succeeding generations. The Archbishop of Yorl 
sought and obtained permission from the Pope to ordair 
at any time, and to dispense with the usual intervals 
between the sacred orders; — Bishop Bateman, of Nor 
wich, was allowed by Clement VI to dispense with sixtj 
clerks, who were but twenty-one years of age, " thougl 
only shavelings," and to allow them to hold rectories, as 
otherwise the divine offices of the Church would cease 
altc^ether in many places^ his diocese. 

" At that time," writes K^hightpn, the sub-contemporar) 
canon of Leicester, " there was everywhere such a deartl 
of priests that many churches were left without th< 
divine offices. Mass, Matins, Vespers, sacraments, anc 
sacramentals. One could hardly get a chaplain to serve 
a church for less than ;f lo, or lo marks. And wherea< 
before the pestilence, when there were plenty of priests 
anyone could get a chaplain for 5 or even 4 marks, oi 

^ Mr. Thorold Rogers' supposition that the population in 134! 
was only about 2,500,000 would, on the assumption that the tw( 
sexes were about equal in number, lead to the conclusion that on( 
man in every 25 was a priest; a suggestion which seems to beai 
on the face of it, its own refutation. 


for 2 marks and his board/ at this time there was hardly 
a soul who would accept a vicarage for ;£'20, or 20 marks. 
In a short time after, however, a large number of those 
whose wives had died in the pestilence came up to 
receive orders. Of these many were illiterate and mere 
laics, except in so far as they knew in a way how to read, 
although they did not understand " what they read' -^ 

One instance of the rapidly of promotion, so that 
benefices might not too long remain unfilled, may be 
given. In the diocese of Winchester the registers record 
at this period very numerous appointments of clerics, not 
in sacred orders, to benefices. For example, in 1349 no 
fewer than 19 incumbents already appointed to churches 
in the city of Winchester came up for ordination, and 
eight in the following year. Of these 27 every one took 
his various orders of sub-deacon, deacon, and priest at 
successive ordinations without the normal interval be- 
tween each step in the sacred ministry.* 

^ Amyot {Archaeologia^ xx, p. 531) notes that even soldiers appear 
to have been better paid than the clergy. A foot soldier had yi, a 
day, or 7 marks a year ; a horse soldier lod. or i2d, a day. Chaucer's 
good parson, who was only " rich of holy thought and werk," might 
not be remarkable. 

" Ed. Twysden, coL 2699. 

' Mr. Baigent's MS. extracts from the Episcopal Registers. It 
is of interest to note that in normal times very few were ordained 
after their appointment as incumbents. Thus, to take the churches 
in the city of Winchester, besides this period and 1361, when again 
the mortality among the clergy was very great, only some 8 or 9 
were so ordained between 1349 and 1361, as the following table 
will show : 









1 361 















Two examples of the straits to which the Bishops wer< 
reduced for priests are to be found in the registers of tb 
diocese of Bath and Wells. The one is the admission a 
a man to the first step to Orders, in the lifetime of hh 
wife, she giving her consent, and promising to kee{ 
chaste, but not, as was usually required under such cir 
cumstances, being compelled to enter the cloister, ** be 
cause she was aged, and could without suspicion remair 
in the world." ^ The second instance in the same registei 
of a difficulty experienced in filling up vacancies is tin 
case of a permission given to Adam, the rector of Hintor 
Bluet, to say mass on Sundays and feast days in the 
chapel of William de Sutton, even although he hac 
before celebrated the solemnities of the mass in hi< 
church of Hinton.* 

Another curious case, which we may suspect reall> 
came from the same cause, is noted at an ordination helc 
in December, 1352, at Ely. Of the four then receiving 
the priesthood two were monks, and from the other tw( 
an oath of obedience to the Bishop and his successor 
was enacted, tc^ether with a promise " that they woulc 
serve any parish church to which they might b 

Many instances could be given of the ignorance con 
sequent upon the ordinations being hurried on, and upoi 
laymen, otherwise unfitted for the sacred mission, bein{ 
too hastily admitted to the vacant cures. To take bu 
two instances, from Winchester, which may serve t( 
illustrate this and at the same time to show the zeal witi 
which the mediaeval Bishops endeavoured to guarc 

^ Had. MS., 6965, foL 145 (7 id- Julii, 1349)* 

* IHd., fol. 146b. 

' B. Mus. Cole MS., 5824, fbl. 23b. 


against the evil. On 24th June, 1385, the illustrious 
William of Wykeham, Bishop of Winchester, caused Sir 
Roger Dene, Rector of the church of St. Michael, in 
Jewry Street, Winchester, to swear upon the Holy 
Gospels that he would learn within twelve months the 
articles of Faith, the cases reserved to the Bishop, the 
Ten Commandments, the seven works of mercy, the 
seven mortal sins, the Sacraments of the Church, and 
the form of administering and conferring them, and also 
the form of baptising, etc., as contained in the Constitu- 
tions of Archbishop Peckham.^ The same year, on July 
2nd, the Bishop exacted from John Corbet, who on the 
2nd of June previous had been instituted to the rectory 
of Bradley in Hampshire, a similar obligation to learn 
the same, before the feast of St. Michael then next 
ensuing. In the former case Roger Dene had been rector 
of Ryston, in Norfolk, and had been instituted to his 
living at Winchester by the Bishop of Norwich only on 
2 1st June, 1358, three days before Bishop William of 
Wykeham required him to enter into the obligation de- 
tailed above." 

It has been already remarked that one obvious result 
of the great mortality, so far as the Church is con- 
cerned, was the extraordinary decrease in the number of - ' 
candidates for sacred orders. In the Winchester diocese, 
for example, the average number of priests ordained in 
each of the three years preceding 1349 was lii; whilst 
in the 15 subsequent years, up to 1365, when Bishop 
Edyndon died, the yearly average was barely 20; and 

* For the real meaning to be attached to learning the Pater noster, 
etc., see my article on Religious Instruction in England in the 14/A 
^nd 15/A Centuries^ in Dublin Review, Oct., 1893, p. 900. 

• Mr. Baigent's MS. collections. 



in the thirty-four years, from 1367 to 1400, even with s 
zealous a prelate as William of Wykeham presiding ovc 
the diocese, the annual average number of ordinatior 
to the sacred priesthood was only 27 ; a number whic 
was further decreased during the progress of the fifteent 

The same striking result of the plague, which canm 
but have had a very serious effect upon the Church < 
large, is manifested elsewhere. The Ely roisters, fc 
example, show that the average number of all thos 
ordained, for the seven years before 1349, was loij 
whilst for the seven years after that date it was but 40 
In 1349 no ordinations whatever apparently were hel< 
and the average number of priests ordained yearly, froi 
1374 to 1394, was only 14. In fact the total numtx 
ordained in that period was only 282, whilst of thef 
many entered the priesthood for other dioceses, an 
more than half, namely 161, were members of the varioi 
religious orders; so that the ranks of the diocesan clerg 
of Ely appear to have received but few recruits durir 
the whole of this time. 

In the diocese of Hereford, to take another exampl 
previously to 1349, there were some very laige ordin 
tions. Thus, in 1346, on the nth of March, 438 peep 
were ordained to various grades in the sacred ministr 
Of these some 89 received the priesthood, 49 of the 
being ordained for the diocese of Hereford. Again, c 
the loth of June in the same year, Bishop Trileck co 
ferred Orders, in the parish church of Ledbury, up< 
451 candidates, of whom 148 were made priests; < 
being intended for his own diocese. Altogether, in th 

* From 1400 to 1418 the average was 17, from 1447 to 14 
only 18. 


year, some 319 priests were ordained by the Bishop; 
half of the number being his own clergy/ About the 
same numbers were ordained in the year of the plague 
itself, 1349, and 371 in the following year. In fact, till 
1353 the number remains large, but the greater portion 
of those ordained were intended for other dioceses. 
The subjects of the Bishop of Hereford at once show a 
falling off similar to that noticed in Winchester and Ely. 
Thus, from 1345 to 1349, the average number of subjects 
ordained by the Bishop for his own diocese was 72. In 
the next five years it was only 34, whilst in no subse- 
quent year during Bishop Trileck's pontificate did it 
rise above 23. 

The above three examples will be sufficient to show 
how seriously the great pestilence affected the supply of 
cl^r^. The reason is not difficult to divine. The great 
deartli^of^pOpulation created a proportionate demand 
upon the services of the survivors to carry on the busi- 
ness of the nation, and the greater pressure of business 
thus brought about, and the higher wages to be, in fact, 
obtained, in spite of royal prohibitions, were not favour- 
able to the development of vocations to the clerical life.^j 
The void thus caused by the overwhelming misfortunes 
of the great mortality was enlarged by the exigencies of 
the English war with France, whilst popular disturb- 
ances, and the subsequent Wars of the Roses, main- 
tained the same causes in operation till far into the 
reigns of the Tudor sovereigns. 

To some extent, the deartk of students at Oxford and 
Cambridge, which has already been referred to, was 
brought about by the same causes, and it certainly fol- 
lowed immediately upon the fatal year of 1349. At 
> Reg. Trileck, fol. 180 seqg. 


Oxford, no doubt, the serious disturbances, which took 
place at this time between the students and townsfolk, 
contributed to aggravate the evil. So serious, indeed, 
had the state of the great centre of clerical education in 
England become, in less than six years after the 
pestilence, that the King was compelled to address the 
Bishops on the subject. He begs them to help in the 
task of renewing the University; "knowing," he says, 
"how the Catholic Faith is chiefly supported by the 
learning of the clergy, and the State governed by their 
prudence, we earnestly desire that, particularly in our 
kingdom of England, the clerical order may be increased 
in number, morals, and knowledge." But, " in the city 
of Oxford, in which the fount and source of clerical 
knowledge" has long existed, owing to the disturb- 
ances, students have forsaken the place, and Oxford, 
once so renowned, has become " like a worthless fig- 
tree without fruit." * It has already been pointed out 
how, nearly half a century later, the University had not 
recovered from the great blow it had received at this 
period." ^ 

There seems, indeed, a prevalent mi^uhderstanding in 
regard to th^ relation, or proportionate numbers, of 
secular and regular clergy at this period, and as to the 
decline in popularity of the regulars, as presumed to be 
evidenced in the number of those who joined them after 
the middle of the fourteenth century. It is assumed 
that up to that period the regular clergy were, both in 

^ Reg. Trileck, fol. 163. 
y * Archbishop I slip founded Canterbury College at Oxford to 
supply the failing ranks of the clergy and to increase the facilities 
of learning (Wilkins, iii, p. 52), and William of Wykeham likewise 
established his schools and colleges with the same object. 


numbers and influence, the chief factors in the ecclesi- 
astical system of England, and that after that date they 
greatly declined in importance, public estimation, and 
numbers. As evidence, not only is an actual diminution 
in mere numbers adduced, but also the fact that, after 
this time, the new religious institutions took the form of 
colleges, not of monasteries. The misconception lies 
first of all in this — that there never was a period of the 
Middle Ages in England, nor for the matter of that 
abroad, when the regular clergy were the great mainstay 
of the Church, so far, at least, as numbers, external 
work, and the cure of souls are concerned. Writers have 
allowed their imaginations to be influenced by the 
magnitude of the great monastic houses, or by the 
prominent part taken in the government of the Church 
by individuals of eminence, belonging to the ranks of 
the regular clergy; and have not remembered how com- 
paratively few in fact were these great monastic centres, 
and how small a proportion their inmates bore to the 
great body of clergy at large. 

It is necessary to refer, perhaps, to figures to bring 
this home to those who have not devoted special atten- 
tion to the mediaeval period, or who, having studied it, 
still somehow fail to realise facts as distinct from 
theories, and to rid themselves of the imaginative pre- 
possessions with which they entered upon their investiga- 
tions. Thus, even after the institution of the mendicant 
orders, and in the flow of their popularity, the ordinations 
for the diocese of York, in the year 1344-45, show that ' 
whilst the number of priests ordained was 271, only 44'j 
were regulars. In the same way, the register of Bishop' 
Stapeldon gives the ordinations in the diocese of Exeter 
from 1 301 to 1 32 1. During this period 703 seculars were 


made priests, against 114 regulars. In both these in- 
stances, therefore, more than six seculars were ordained 
for every regular. 

(^ This has its importance in estimating the change^n 
the direction given to religious foundations noticed 
above. During the course of the thirteenth century, 
when so strong a current of intellectual activity and 
speculation had set in, the importance of education to 
the working clergy — at least to a considerable propor- 
tion of them — forced itself upon those who were the 
responsible rulers of the Church. The religious houses 
were in existence, and, either great or small, were spread 
all over the land; indeed, after the pestilence of 1349, 
greatly more than sufficed for the number of vocations 
in the reduced population. Further, by their foundation 
they were not calculated to furnish the means of meet- 
ing the new want that was pressing, aggravated as it 
was by the sudden diminution of the pastoral clergy in 
the sickness. The formation of collegiate institutions, 
whether of the University type or of country colleges 
for secular priests, such as Stoke-Clare, Arundel, and 
the very many others which arose in the century and a 
half from 1350 to 1500, is explained by the very circum- 
stances of the case; and there is no need to have re 
course to a supposition as to the wane in popularity of 
the religious orders, and the prevalent sense that their 
work was over, to explain the diminution in their! 
numbers, and the absence of new monastic foundations. 
If the relative proportion between the numbers of secularj 
and regular clergy ordained before and after the middle 
of the fourteenth century be taken as a test of the trutfl 
of this supposition, the statistics available do not bear it 
out. Thus the ordinations to the priesthood, registere(| 


in the registers of the diocese of Bath and Wells, for the 
80 years, 1443 to 1523, number 901 ; of these 679 were 
those of seculars, and 222 those of regulars. In this 
instance, consequently, the ordination of seculars to 
regulars was in the proportion of 8*5 to 27, or rather 
more than three to one.* 

In common with those in worldly professions and busi- \ 
nesses the survivors among the clergy appear to have 
demanded larger stipends than they had previously 
obtained for the performance of their ecclesiastical 
duties. Looking back upon the times, and considering 
how even the small dues of the clergy had been reduced 
by the death of a large proportion of their people, till . 
they became wholly inadequate for their support, it is * 
impossible to blame them harshly, and not to see that 
such a demand must inevitably follow upon a great 
reduction in numbers. At the time^ however, by the 
direction of King and Parliament, the Archbishops and 
Bishops sought to restrain them from making these 
claims, in the same way as the King tried to prevent the 
labourers from demanding higher wages. In his letter to 
the Bishops of his province Archbishop Islip refers " to 
the unbridled cupidity of the human race," which ever 

* In the diocese of London, in the twelve years, from 1362 to 
1374, Bishop Sudbury ordained 1,046 seculars and 456 regulars, the 
proportion consequently being about 2*3 to i. In the last twenty 
years of the century, namely, from 1381 to 1401, Bishop Braybroke 
ordained to the priesthood only 584 seculars, whilst the regulars 
were 425 during the same period. In other words, during the first 
period, the average annual number of ordinations to the ranks of 
the secular clergy in the diocese of London was over S7 ; during 
the last twenty years of the century it was only 29*2. The averages 
of the regulars in the corresponding periods were 35 and 21 '2. 
Similar results appear from the York registers. 


requires to be checked by justice, unless " charity is to 
be driven out of the world." " General complaints have 
come to me," he writes, "and experience, the best teacher 
of all things, has shown to me that the priests who still 
survive, not considering that they are preserved by the 
Divine will from the dangers of the late pestilence, not 
for their own sakes, but to perform the ministry com- 
mitted to them for the people of God, and the public 
utility," like other workmen, through cupidity, neglect 
the burdens of curates, and take more profitable offices, 
for which also they demand more than before. If this 
be not at once put a stop to " many, and indeed most of 
the churches, prebends, and chapels of our and your 
diocese, and indeed of our whole Province, will remain 
absolutely without priests." To remedy this not only 
were people urged not to employ such chaplains, but the 
clergy were to be compelled under ecclesiastical cen- 
sures to serve the ordinary cures at moderate and usual 
salaries. It seems not improbable that this measure may 
have contributed to draw the sympathies of the clergy at 
large more closely to the people in their struggle for 
freedom at this period of English history, when both 
in the civil and ecclesiastical sphere there was the same 
attempt by public law to impose restraints on natural 

To the great dearth of clergy at this time may, partly 
at least, fee ascribed the great growth of the crying abuse 
of plumlities. Without taking into account the diffi- 
culty experienced on all hands in finding fit, proper, and 
tried ecclesiastics to fill posts of eminence and responsi- 
bility in the Church, it is impossible to account for the 
great increase in the practice just at this time. The 
number of benefices, for example, held by William of 


Wykeham himself, who entered the Church in conse- 
quence of the great mortality among the clergy in 1361, 
may be explained, if not excused, by the prevalent and 
in the circumstances inevitable dearth of subjects of 
training and capacity equal to the arduous and delicate 
duties devolving on the higher clergy. 

Notwithstanding all the great difficulties which beset 
the Church in England in consequence of the great 
mortality, there is abundant evidence (which is no part 
of the present subject) of untiring efforts on the part of 
the leading ecclesiastics to bring back observance to its 
normal level. This is evidenced in the institution of so 
many pious confraternities and guilds, and in a profuse 
liberality to churches and sacred places. 

The consequences of the mortality, so far as the 
monastic establishments of the country are concerned, 
have already in the course of the narrative frequently 
been pointed out. The same reasons which militated- 
against the recruiting for the ranks of the clergy gener- 
ally after the plague are sufficient explanation of the 
fact that the religious houses were never able to regain 
the ground lost in that fatal year. Over and above this, , 
moreover, the sudden change in the tenure of land, 
brought about chiefly by the deaths of the monastic 
tenants, so impaired their financial position, at any rate 
for a long period, that they were unable to support the 
burden of additional subjects. 

To the facts showing how the monasteries were de- 
populated by the disease already given may be added 
the following: — In 1235 the abbey of St. Albans is sup- 
posed to have counted some 100 monks within its walls. 
In the plague of 1349 the abbot and some 47 of his 
monks died at one time, and subsequently one more 


died whilst at Canterbury, on his way with the newly- 
elected abbot to the Roman Curia. Assuming, therefore, 
that the community had remained the same in number 
as in 1235, St Albans was at most left with only 51 
members. At the close of the century, namely, in 1396, 
some 60 monks took part in election, and as this num- 
ber includes the priors of the nine dependent cells, it 
would seem that the actual community still remained 
only 51. In 1452 there were only 48 professed monks in 
the abbey, and at the dissolution of the monastery, 
nearly a century later, the number was reduced to 39. 
This instance of the way in which the numbers in the 
monastic houses were diminished by the sickness, and 
by its effect on the general population of the country 
were prevented from ever again increasing to their 
former proportions, may be strengthened by the case of 
Glastonbury. This great abbey of the west of England 
has ever been r^arded as in many respects the most im- 
portant of the English Benedictine houses. It is not too 
much to suppose that in the period of its greatest pros- 
perity it must have counted probably a hundred mem- 
bers. In 1377 the number, as given on the subsidy-roll, 
is only 45. In 1456 they stand at 48, and were about the 
same at the time of the dissolution of the abbey. A 
similar effect upon the members at Bath has already 
been pointed out. 
I It need hardly be said that the scoui^e must have 

I been most demoralising to discipline, destructive to tra- 
ditional practice, and fatal to observance. It is a well- 
. ascertained fact, strange though it may seem, that men 
\are not as a rule made better by great and universal 
Vvisitations of Divine Providence. It has been noticed 


that this is the evident result of all such scourges, or, as 
Procopius puts it, speaking of the great plague in the 
reign of the Emperor Justinian, " whether by chance or 
Providential design it strictly spared the most wicked." ^ 
So in this visitation, from Italy to England, the universal 
testimony of those who lived through it is, that it seemed 
to rouse up the worst passions of the human heart, and \ 
to dull the spiritual senses of the soul. Wadding, the 
Franciscan annalist, has attributed to this very plague 
of 1348-9 the decay of fervour evident throughout his 
own Order at this time. " This evil," he writes, " wrought 
great destruction to the holy houses of religion, carrying 
off the masters of regular discipline and the seniors of 
experience. From this time the monastic Orders, and in 
particular the mendicants, began to grow tepid and neg- 
ligent, both in that piety and that learning in which they 
had up to this time flourished. Then, our illustrious 
members being carried off, the rigours of discipline re- 
laxed by these calamities, could not be renewed by the 
youths received without the necessary training, rather 
to fill the empty houses than to restore the lost dis- 
cipline." " 

We may sum up the results of the great mortality in 
the words of a reliable writer. " For our purpose," writes 
Dr. Cunningham, "it is important to notice that the 
steady ^Hxigress^oTthe twdHlbli and thirteenth centuries 
was suddenly chdqke^^ the fourteenth; the strain of - 
the hundred years' war would have been exhausting in 

^ Archbp. I slip at this time (1350) says: "Dum ad memoriam 
reducimus admirandam pestilentiam que nuper partes istas subito 
sic invasit, ut nobis multo meliores et digniores subtraxerat.'' 

" AnnaUs Minorum^ viii, p. 22. 


,any case, but the nation had to bear it when the Black 
' Death had swept off half the population and the whole 
social structure was disorganised." ^ 

In dealing with this subject it is difficult to bring 
home to the mind the vast range of the great calamity, 
and duly to appreciate how deep was the break with 
then existing institutions. The plague of 1349 simply 
shattered them; and it is, as already pointed out, only 
by perpetual reiteration and reconsideration of the same 
phenomena that we can bring ourselves to understand 
the character of such a social and religious catastrophe. 
But it is at the same time of the first importance thor- 
oughly to realise the case if we are to enter into and to 
understand the great process of social and religious re- 
edification, to which the immediately succeeding genera- 
tions had to address themselves. The tragedy was too 
grave to allow of people being carried over it by mere 
enthusiasm. Indeed, the empiric and enthusiast in the 
attempts at social reconstruction, as may be found in the 
works of Wycliff, could only aggravate the evil. It was 
essentially a crisis that had to be met by strenuous 
effort and unflagging work in every department of 
human activity. And here is manifested a characteristic 
of the Middle Ages which constitutes, as the late Pro- 
fessor Freeman has pointed out, their real greatness. In 
contradistinction to a day like our own, which abounds 
in every facility for achievement, they had to contend 
with every material difficulty; but in contradistinction, 
too, to that practical pessimism which has to-day gained 
only too great a hold upon intelligences otherwise viva- 
cious and open, difficulties, in the Middle Ages, called 
into existence only a more strenuous and more deter- 
* Growth 0/ English Industry and Commerce^ p. 275. 


mined resolve to meet and surmount them. And here is 
the sense in which the hackneyed, and in a sense untrue, 
phrase, " the Ages of Faith," has a real application, for 
nothing can be more contrary to the spirit and tone of i 
mind of the whole epoch than pessimism, nothing more 
in harmony with it than hope. In this sense the observa- 
tion of a well-known modern writer or/aM, in noting the 
inability of the Middle Ages to see thing's as they really 
are and the tendency to substitute on the parchment or ; 
the canvas conventional for actual forms, has a drift ■ 
which, perhaps, he did not perceive. In itself unques- 
tionably this defect is a real one, but in practice it pos- 
sessed a counterbalancing advantage by supplying the 
necessary corrective to that bare literalism and realism , 
which, in the long run, is fatal no less to sustained effort 
than it is to art. 

The great mortality, commonly called the Black 
Death, was a catastrophe sudden and overwhelming, the 
like of which it will be difficult to parallel Many a 
noble aspiration which, could it have been realised, and 
many a wise conception which, could it have attained 
its true development, would have been most fruitful of 
good to humanity, was stricken beyond recovery. Still 
no time was wasted in vain laments. What had perished 
had perished. Time, however, and the power of effort 
and work belonged to those that survived. 

Two of the noblest churches in Italy typify the two- 
fold aspect of this great visitation — the Cathedral of 
Siena and the Cathedral of Milan. The former, the vast 
building that crowns the Tuscan Hill, is but a fragment 
of what was originally conceived. It was actually in 
course of erection, and would have been hardly less in 
size than the present St. Peter's had it been completed. 


Oxford, no doubt, the serious disturbances, which toe 
place at this time between the students and townsfol 
contributed to aggravate the evil. So serious, indee 
had the state of the great centre of clerical education : 
England become, in less than six years after tl 
pestilence, that the King was compelled to address tl 
Bishops on the subject. He begs them to help in tl 
task of renewing the University; " knowing," he sa> 
"how the Catholic Faith is chiefly supported by tl 
learning of the clergy, and the State governed by the 
prudence, we earnestly desire that, particularly in o 
kingdom of England, the clerical order may be increase 
in number, morals, and knowledge." But, " in the ci 
of Oxford, in which the fount and source of cleric 
knowledge" has long existed, owing to the distur 
ances, students have forsaken the place, and Oxfox 
once so renowned, has become " like a worthless fi 
tree without fruit." ' It has already been pointed o 
how, nearly half a century later, the University had n 
recovered from the great blow it had received at tl 

There seems, indeed, a prevalent mituhderstanding 
regard to the relation, or proportionate numbers, 
secular and regular clergy at this period, and as to t 
decline in popularity of the regulars, as presumed to 
evidenced in the number of those who joined them aft 
the middle of the fourteenth century. It is assum 
that up to that period the regular clergy were, both 

* Reg. Trileck, foL 163. 

' Archbishop Islip founded Canterbury College at Oxford 
supply the failing ranks of the clergy and to increase the facilii 
of learning (Wilkins, iii, p. 52), and William of Wykeham likew 
established his schools and colleges with the same object. 


numbers and influence, the chief factors in the ecclesi- 
astical system of England, and that after that date they 
greatly declined in importance, public estimation, and 
numbers. As evidence, not only is an actual diminution 
in mere numbers adduced, but also the fact that, after 
this time, the new religious institutions took the form of 
colleges, not of monasteries. The misconception lies 
first of all in this — that there never was a period of the 
Middle Ages in England, nor for the matter of that 
abroad, when the regular clergy were the great mainstay 
of the Church, so far, at least, as numbers, external 
work, and the cure of souls are concerned. Writers have 
allowed their imaginations to be influenced by the 
magnitude of the great monastic houses, or by the 
prominent part taken in the government of the Church 
by individuals of eminence, belonging to the ranks of 
the regular clergy; and have not remembered how com- 
paratively few in fact were these great monastic centres, 
and how small a proportion their inmates bore to the 
great body of clergy at large. 

It is necessary to refer, perhaps, to figures to bring 
this home to those who have not devoted special atten- 
tion to the mediaeval period, or who, having studied it, 
still somehow fail to realise facts as distinct from 
theories, and to rid themselves of the imaginative pre- 
possessions with which they entered upon their investiga- 
tions. Thus, even after the institution of the mendicant 
orders, and in the flow of their popularity, the ordinations 
for the diocese of York, in the year 1344-45, show that ' 
whilst the number of priests ordained was 271, only 44 1 
were regulars. In the same way, the register of Bishop 
Stapeldon gives the ordinations in the diocese of Exeter 
from 1301 to 1321. During this period 703 seculars were 


made priests, against 114 regulars. In both these in- 
stances, therefore, more than six seculars were ordained 
for every regular. 

(' This has its importance in estimating the change^n 
the direction given to religious foundations noticed 
above. During the course of the thirteenth century, 
when so strong a current of intellectual activity and 
speculation had set in, the importance of education to 
the working clergy — at least to a considerable propor- 
tion of them — forced itself upon those who were the 
responsible rulers of the Church. The religious houses 
were in existence, and, either great or small, were spread 
all over the land; indeed, after the pestilence of 1349, 
greatly more than sufficed for the number of vocations 
in the reduced population. Further, by their foundation 
they were not calculated to furnish the means of meet- 
ing the new want that was pressing, aggravated as it 
was by the sudden diminution of the pastoral clergy in 
the sickness. The formation of collegiate institutions, 
whether of the University type or of country colleges 
for secular priests, such as Stoke-Clare, Arundel, and 
the very many others which arose in the century and a 
half from 1350 to 1500, is explained by the very circum- 
stances of the case; and there is no need to have re- 
course to a supposition as to the wane in popularity of 
the religious orders, and the prevalent sense that their 
work was over, to explain the diminution in their 
numbers, and the absence of new monastic foundations. 
If the relative proportion between the numbers of secular 
and regular clergy ordained before and after the middle 
of the fourteenth century be taken as a test of the truth 
of this supposition, the statistics available do not bear it 
out. Thus the ordinations to the priesthood, registered 


in the registers of the diocese of Bath and Wells, for the 
80 years, 1443 *o 1523, number 901; of these 679 were 
those of seculars, and 222 those of regulars. In this 
instance, consequently, the ordination of seculars to 
regulars was in the proportion of 8*5 to 27, or rather 
more than three to one.* 

In common with those in worldly professions and busi- \, 
nesses the survivors among the clergy appear to have 
demanded larger stipends than they had previously 
obtained for the performance of their ecclesiastical 
duties. Looking back upon the times, and considering 
how even the small dues of the clergy had been reduced 
by the death of a large proportion of their people, till 
they became wholly inadequate for their support, it is 
impossible to blame them harshly, and not to see that 
such a demand must inevitably follow upon a great 
reduction in numbers. At the time^ however, by the 
direction of King and Parliament, the Archbishops and 
Bishops sought to restrain them from making these 
claims, in the same way as the King tried to prevent the 
labourers from demanding higher wages. In his letter to 
the Bishops of his province Archbishop I slip refers " to 
the unbridled cupidity of the human race," which ever 

^ In the diocese of London, in the twelve years, from 1362 to 
1374, Bishop Sudbury ordained 1,046 seculars and 456 regulars, the 
proportion consequently being about 2*3 to i. In the last twenty 
years of the century, namely, from 1381 to 1401, Bishop Braybroke 
ordained to the priesthood only 584 seculars, whilst the regulars 
were 425 during the same period. In other words, during the first 
period, the average annual number of ordinations to the ranks of 
the secular clergy in the diocese of London was over 87 ; during 
the last twenty years of the century it was only 29-2. The averages 
of the regulars in the corresponding periods were 35 and 21*2. 
Similar results appear from the York registers. 


requires to be checked by justice, unless "charity is to 
be driven out of the world." " General complaints have 
come to me," he writes, "and experience, the best teacher 
of all things, has shown to me that the priests who still 
survive, not considering that they are preserved by the 
Divine will from the dangers of the late pestilence, not 
for their own sakes, but to perform the ministry com- 
mitted to them for the people of God, and the public 
utility," like other workmen, through cupidity, negled 
the burdens of curates, and take more profitable offices, 
for which also they demand more than before. If this 
be not at once put a stop to " many, and indeed most ol 
the churches, prebends, and chapels of our and youi 
diocese, and indeed of our whole Province, will remair 
absolutely without priests." To remedy this not onlj 
were people urged not to employ such chaplains, but the 
clergy were to be compelled under ecclesiastical cen 
sures to serve the ordinary cures at moderate and usua 
salaries. It seems not improbable that this measure ma} 
have contributed to draw the sympathies of the clergy a 
large more closely to the people in their struggle fo 
freedom at this period of English history, when botl 
in the civil and ecclesiastical sphere there was the samt 
attempt by public law to impose restraints on natura 

To the great dearth of clergy at this time may, partly 
at least, be ascribed the great growth of the crying abus^ 
of pluilalities. Without taking into account the diffi 
culty experienced on all hands in finding fit, proper, an< 
tried ecclesiastics to fill posts of eminence and responsi 
bility in the Church, it is impossible to account for th( 
great increase in the practice just at this time. Thi 
number of benefices, for example, held by William o 


Wykeham himself, who entered the Church in conse- 
quence of the great mortality among the clergy in 1361, 
may be explained, if not excused, by the prevalent and 
in the circumstances inevitable dearth of subjects of 
training and capacity equal to the arduous and delicate 
duties devolving on the higher clergy. 

Notwithstanding all the great difficulties which beset 
the Church in England in consequence of the great 
mortality, there is abundant evidence (which is no part 
of the present subject) of untiring efforts on the part of 
the leading ecclesiastics to bring back observance to its • 
normal level. This is evidenced in the institution of so 
many pious confraternities and guilds, and in a profuse 
liberality to churches and sacred places. 

The consequences of the mortality, so far as the 
monastic establishments of the country are concerned, 
have already in the course of the narrative frequently 
been pointed out. The same reasons which militated- 
against the recruiting for the ranks of the clergy gener- 
ally after the plague are sufficient explanation of the 
fact that the religious houses were never able to regain 
the ground lost in that fatal year. Over and above this, 
moreover, the sudden change in the tenure of land, 
brought about chiefly by the deaths of the monastic 
tenants, so impaired their financial position, at any rate 
for a long period, that they were unable to support the 
burden of additional subjects. 

To the facts showing how the monasteries were de- 
populated by the disease already given may be added 
the following: — In 1235 the abbey of St. Albans is sup- 
posed to have counted some 100 monks within its walls. 
In the plague of 1349 the abbot and some 47 of his 
monks died at one time, and subsequently one more 


died whilst at Canterbury, on his way with the newlj 
elected abbot to the Roman Curia. Assuming, therefon 
that the community had remained the same in numbc 
as in 1235, St Albans was at most left with only 5 
members. At the close of the century, namely, in i^gn 
some 60 monks took part in election, and as this nun 
ber includes the priors of the nine dependent cells, 
would seem that the actual community still remaine 
only 51. In 1452 there were only 48 professed monks i 
the abbey, and at the dissolution of the monaster 
nearly a century later, the number was reduced to 3 
This instance of the way in which the numbers in tl 
monastic houses were diminished by the sickness, ar 
by its effect on the general population of the count 
were prevented from ever again increasing to the 
former proportions, may be strengthened by the case 
Glastonbury. This great abbey of the west of Englar 
has ever been regarded as in many respects the most ir 
portant of the English Benedictine houses. It is not t< 
much to suppose that in the period of its greatest pre 
perity it must have counted probably a hundred mei 
bers. In 1377 the number, as given on the subsidy -ro 
is only 45. In 1456 they stand at 48, and were about tl 
same at the time of the dissolution of the abbey, 
similar effect upon the members at Bath has alreat 
been pointed out 

' It need hardly be said that the scourge must ha 
been most demoralising to discipline, destructive to t 
ditional practice, and fatal to observance. It is a we 
, ascertained fact, strange though it may seem, that m 
\are not as a rule made better by great and univer 
\visitations of Divine Providence. It has been notic 


that this is the evident result of all such scourges, or, as 
Procopius puts it, speaking of the great plague in the 
reign of the Emperor Justinian, " whether by chance or 
Providential design it strictly spared the most wicked." * 
So in this visitation, from Italy to England, the universal 
testimony of those who lived through it is, that it seemed 
to rouse up the worst passions of the human heart, and ' 
to dull the spiritual senses of the soul. Wadding, the 
Franciscan annalist, has attributed to this very plague 
of 1348-9 the decay of fervour evident throughout his 
own Order at this time. " This evil," he writes, " wrought 
great destruction to the holy houses of religion, carrying 
off the masters of regular discipline and the seniors of 
experience. From this time the monastic Orders, and in 
particular the mendicants, began to grow tepid and neg- 
ligent, both in that piety and that learning in which they 
had up to this time flourished. Then, our illustrious 
members being carried off, the rigours of discipline re- 
laxed by these calamities, could not be renewed by the 
youths received without the necessary training, rather 
to (ill the empty houses than to restore the lost dis- 
cipline." ' 

We may sum up the results of the great mortality in 
the words of a reliable writer. " For our purpose," writes 
Dr. Cunningham, "it is important to notice that the 
steady ^Qgress''orthe twdlfHi and thirteenth centuries 
was suddenly chacke^^ the fourteenth ; the strain of 
the hundred years' war would have been exhausting in 

^ Archbp. I slip at this time (1350) says: " Dum ad memoriam 
reducimus admirandam pestilentiam que nuper partes istas subito 
sic invasit, ut nobis multo meliores et digniores subtraxerat." 

^ Annales Minorum^ viii, p. 22. 


^any case, but the nation had to bear it when the Black 
f Death had swept off half the population and the whole 
social structure was disorganised." * 

In dealing with this subject it is difficult to bring 
home to the mind the vast range of the great calamity, 
and duly to appreciate how deep was the break with 
then existing institutions. The plague of 1349 simply 
shattered them ; and it is, as already pointed out, only 
by perpetual reiteration and reconsideration of the same 
phenomena that we can bring ourselves to understand 
the character of such a social and religious catastrophe. 
But it is at the same time of the first importance thor- 
oughly to realise the case if we are to enter into and to 
understand the great process of social and religious re- 
edification, to which the immediately succeeding genera- 
tions had to address themselves. The tragedy was too 
grave to allow of people being carried over it by mere 
enthusiasm. Indeed, the empiric and enthusiast in the 
attempts at social reconstruction, as may be found in the 
works of WycHff, could only aggravate the evil. It was 
essentially a crisis that had to be met by strenuous 
effort and unflagging work in every department of 
human activity. And here is manifested a characteristic 
of the Middle Ages which constitutes, as the late Pro- 
fessor Freeman has pointed out, their real greatness. In 
contradistinction to a day like our own, which abounds 
in every facility for achievement, they had to contend 
with every material difficulty; but in contradistinction, 
too, to that practical pessimism which has to-day gained 
only too great a hold upon intelligences otherwise viva- 
cious and open, difficulties, in the Middle Ages, called 
into existence only a more strenuous and more deter- 
* Growth of English Industry and Commerce^ p. 275, 


mined resolve to meet and surmount them. And here is 
the sense in which the hackneyed, and in a sense untrue, 
phrase, " the Ages of Faith," has a real application, for 
nothing can be more contrary to the spirit and tone of 
mind of the whole epoch than pessimism, nothing more 
in harmony with it than hope. In this sense the observa- 
tion of a well-known modern writer oi/aM, in noting the 
inability of the Middle Ages to see thing^s as they really 
are and the tendency to substitute on the parchment or 
the canvas conventional for actual forms, has a drift 
which, perhaps, he did not perceive. In itself unques- 
tionably this defect is a real one, but in practice it pos- 
sessed a counterbalancing advantage by supplying the 
necessary corrective to that bare literalism and realism 
which, in the long run, is fatal no less to sustained effort 
than it is to art 

The great mortality, commonly called the Black 
Death, was a catastrophe sudden and overwhelming, the 
like of which it will be difficult to parallel. Many a 
noble aspiration which, could it have been realised, and 
many a wise conception which, could it have attained 
its true development, would have been most fruitful of 
good to humanity, was stricken beyond recovery. Still 
no time was wasted in vain laments. What had perished 
had perished. Time, however, and the power of effort 
and work belonged to those that survived. 

Two of the noblest churches in Italy typify the two- 
fold aspect of this great visitation — the Cathedral of 
Siena and the Cathedral of Milan. The former, the vast 
building that crowns the Tuscan Hill, is but a fragment 
of what was originally conceived. It was actually in 
course of erection, and would have been hardly less in 
size than the present St. Peter's had it been completed. 


The transepts were already raised, and the foundations 
of the enormous nave and choir had been laid when the 
plague fell upon the city. The works were necessarily 
suspended, and from that day to this have never been 

Little more than a generation had passed from the 
fatal year when the most glorious Gothic edifice on 
Italian soil was already rising from the plain of Lom- 
bardy — a symbol of new life, new hopes, new greatness, 
which would surpass the greatness of the buried past 
And this, be it observed, was no creation of Prince or 
Potentate; it was essentially the idea, the work, the 
achievement of the people of Milan themselves.^ 

What gives, perhaps, the predominant interest to the 
century and a half which succeeded the overwhelming 
catastrophe of the Black Death is the fact of the won- 
derful social and religious iccovery from a state almost 
of dissolution. It is not the place here even to enter upon 
so interesting and important a subject It must suffice 
to have indicated the point of view from which the his- 
tory of the immediately succeeding generations must be 
r^arded. In spite of wars and civil commotions it was 

* The AnHalidellafabbrtcOy published by the Cathedral adminis- 
tration, show in the minutest detail the organisation by which the 
necessary funds were raised, and enable us to see how it was popular 
enterprise by which so noble an undertaking was achieved. We can 
now realise the weekly collections made by willing citizens from 
door to door, the collections in the churches, the monthly sales of 
ofTerings in kind of the most varied nature, jewels, dresses, linen, 
pots and pans, divers articles of dress and domestic use. Every 
one, rich and poor alike, felt impelled to join in some way in the 
work which, as the words of the originators express it, " was begun 
by Divine insjdratiim to the honour of Jesus Christ and His most 
Spotless Mother!* Cf. an article by Mr. Edmund Bishop on the 
subject in the Downside Review^ July, 1893. 


an age of distinct progress, although the very com- 
plexity and variety x>f current and undercurrent is, apt at 
times to daze the too impatient inquirer, who wishes to 
reduce everything to the simple result of the definitely 
good, or the definitely bad. 


ABBOTSBURY abbey, 89, 189. 
Abergavenny priory, 138. 
Abstinence days, dispensation from, 

Aden, trade route to, 4. 
Adriatic, coast towns of, 68. 
Agatha, St., relics at Catania, 

Ages of Faith, meaning of, 253. 
Agrarian difficulties, 65, 172, 190- 

T91, se^g, 
Albans, St., see St Albans. 
Alcester, Inq. p.m. at, 221. 
Aldgate, Holy Trinity, cemetery at, 

Aleppo, 2. 

Alexandriaandtradewith Europe, 4. 
Alfonso XI, death of, 67. 
Allott, Thomas, 180. 
Almeira, 67. 
Almsford, 97. 
Alnwick abbey, 186. 
Alverdiscott, 102. 
Amiens, 57. 

Amoundemess, deanery of, 182. 
Andronicus (son of the Emperor 

Cantacuzene), death of, 14. 
Anglada, on nature of the plague, 

Anglesey priory, Cambridge, 206. 
Anglia, East, plague in, 150; effect 

on religious houses of, 15a 
Animals attacked, 13, 44, 163. 

Antioch, patriarch of, archbishop of 

Catania, t6. 
Aragon, Queen of, dies, 67. 
Architecture, influence of pestilence 

on, 235. 
Aries, 43. 
Armenia, 2. 
Arras, decay of, 65. 
Arundel college, 246. 
Asia, epidemic in, 3; trade route 

to Europe from, 3; hordes of 

Tartars in, 3. 
Athelney abbey, 98. 
Atte WeUe, John, 158. 
Augustinians of Winchester diocese, 


Austria, 70. 

Avesbury, Robert of, his account of 
the pestilence, 85. 

Avignon, first reports of plague at, 
18 ; account of plague at, 43, 52, 
58, 139; date of epidemic at, 49; 
extent of mortality in, 49; de- 
crease of population in, 47 ; new 
cemeteries at, 44. 

Azarius, Peter, notary of Novara, 

Azov, otherwise Tana, 6. 

Babington, translator of Hecker's 

Epidemics f 3 note, 
Babington, Somerset, 97. 



Babylon, mediaeval name for Cairo, 4. 
Bagdad, the centre of Eastern com- 
merce, 3* 
Baker, Galfrid le, 83, 135. 
Balearic islands, the, 66. 
Barcelona, 67. 
Barlborough, 171. 
Barlings abbey, 223. 
Barnstaple, 102. 
Barnwell, John, prior of, 154. 
Basingstoke, deanery of, 131. 
Basle, 73. 75- 

Bateman, bishop of Norwich, 238. 
Bath. 97. 
Bath priory, decrease in numbers at, 


Bathampton, 97. 

Bath and Wells, diocese of, prayers 
ordered in, 81 ; date of pestilence 
in, 92, 96 ; letter of bishop of, 92; 
straits for priests in, 240; ordina- 
tions in, 247. 

Baths, pablic, common in the four- 
teenth century, 64. 

Battle abbey, 134. 

Bavaria, 70. 

Beaachief abbey, 171. 

Beche, Margaret de la, Inq. p. m. 
on, 222. 

Bedfordshire, state of manors in, 
116; institutions in, 207; petition 
of sheriff as to state of, 207. 

Beds in French peasant houses, 64. 

Belgium, 57. 

Bellinzona, 71. 

Beneficed and non-beneficed clergy, 
proportion of, 156, 181, 203 m/«, 
236 mt€, 

Befgen, 77. 

Berkshire, state of manors in, 116; 
institutions of clergy in, 207. 

Benne, 72. 

Biknor, Alexander de, archbishop 
of Dublin, 139. 

Bincombe, 91. 

Bircheston, abbot of Westminster, 

Blackburn, deanery of, 18 1. 

Black Death, the, recent origin of 
name, 8; symptoms of the dis- 
ease, 8, 12, 139; special nature 
o( 9> 4S» 50> 56; modem out- 
break o( 10 n«ie\ truce between 
England and France attributed 
to, 136 twU\ inflicted a deadly 
blow on social body, xxi ; forms 
end of mediaeval period, xxii; 
catastrophe to church, xxii ; stait- 
ing-point of modem history, xxiL 

Black Prince, Cornish estates of, 
202 ; remits rents on, ibid. 

Black Sea, ports of, the centres of 
infection, i. 

Blakmere, manor of, 167. 

Blandford, 89. 

Blessed Sacrament, increase of de- 
votion to, xxiv; lamp to bum 
before, 151. 

Blisworth, manor of, 161. 

Blood-spitting, a characteristic vfm- 
tom, 9, 31, 45, 5a 

Bobbio, 21. 

Boccaccio, his description of the 
plague, 18, 33 5€qq. 

Bodmin, 102 ; numbers of deaths in, 

Bodmin priory, 104; destitution of, 

Bohemia, 75. 

Bohemian students, account of 
journey of, 37. 

Bologna, journey from, 37. 

Bolsover, 171. 

Bombay, plague imported into, from 
Hong-Kong, vii. | 

Bongar's Gtsta Dtiptr Francos, 3. | 

Bordeaux, 52. 

Botereaux, Isabel de, 164. 



Botzen, 70. 

Boorton tythxng, 194. 

Bowes, Agnes, prioress of Wor* 
thorp, i6a 

Boxgrove abbey, 134. 

Brackley, state of country near, 224. 

Braunsford, Wulstan, bishop of 
Worcester, 142. 

Bread, white, unknown in the four- 
teenth century, 64. 

Bredwardine, Thomas, archbishop 
of Canterbury, 122. 

Bremen, 7^* 

Brenner-pass, the, 70. 

Bridgwater, 97, 195. 

Bridlington priory, Trivet's Chron- 
icle continued at, 83. 

Bridport, 91; evidence of corpora- 
tion records, 92. 

Bristol, 97, 98, 135, 162; date of 
plague at, 136; new cemetery at, 
99; decay of, 99. 

Bristol channel, contagion carried 
along the, 97, 102. 

Broughton manor, 190. 

Bruerne abbey, 222. 

Bruton priory, cell of, 221. 

Bubonic plague, the, 50; in India, v. 

Buckinghamshire, date of plague in, 
117; institutions of clergy in, 1 1 7, 
207; state of manors in, 116; 
petition of sheriff as to, 207. 

Bucklow manor, 169. 

Burgundy, 52. 

Burials, effected with difficulty, 46; 
Christian idea Of, 128. 

Burton -on-Trent, district of, 172. 

Business, cessation of all, 135. 

Buyers, death of, 106, 170. 

Caesarea, 2. 

Caffa, Genoese port in Crimea, 5. 
Cairo, 2; called Babylon, 4; trade 
at, 4. 

Calais, 57, 81, 136; the taking of, 

Caldecot, manor of, 159. 

Caleston, manor of, 191. 

Cambeth, now Cambay, India, 4. 

Cambray, death of Bishop of Tour- 
nay at, 59. 

Cambridge, date of plague at, 156 ; 
parishes depopulated, 156, 157; 
plague pits at, 156. 

Cambridgeshire, county of, ac- 
counts of a manor in, 157 ; state 
of, 154. 

Camel, district about the river, 

Cantacuzene, the emperor, descrip- 
tion of plague, 12, 13, 19. 

Canterbury, diocese of, 118; insti- 
tutions of clergy in, 118, 207; 
benefices in diocese, 208 ; city of, 
St. Augustine's, 119; Christ- 
church, 119, 123, 208; death of 
a St. Albans monk at, 119; prior 
of, orders prayers, 84; St. Sepul- 
chre's priory, 119; St. Gregory's 
priory, 119; St. James's priory, 
208; hospital of Eastbridge, 1 19. 

Canterbury College, Oxford, origin 
of foundation of, 244 ^ote, 

Caramania, 2. 

Carinthia, 7a 

Carlisle, 183, 184. 

Carmarthen priory, 138. 

Carmelites of Winchester priory, 
the, 213. 

Cartmel priory, 182. 

Cary, Richard de. Mayor of Oxford, 

Caspar Camentz, on the plague at 

Frankfort, 75. 
Castlecary, 97. 
Catania, 16, 17; flight of people to, 

16; death of Gerard Otho, the 

archbishop, 17. 



Cattle left to wander in fields, 71, 

Ceocbetti, signor» on medical facility 
of Venice, 35. 

Cemetery, difficulty as to, at Win- 
Chester, lay; at Avignon, 46; at 
Toumay, 61. 

C^risy, St, Vigor's abbey of, 215. 

Charterhouse, London, old ceme- 
tery at, 108-109. 

Charterhouses of Somerset, 197. 

Chastiloun, John, sheriflf of Bedford, 
etc, ao;. 

Chauliac, Gui de, 9, $0- 

Chedworth, Sir Thomas, and An- 
glesey priory, ao6. 

Chedsoy manor rolls, 19$. 

Cheshunt, convent at, ao6. 

Chester, county of, 168-169; ac- 
counts of County Palatine, 169; 
archdeaneiy of, institution in, 
168-169; city, St. John's in, 169; 
St. Mary's prioiy, 169. 

China, origin of plague in, i, 2; 
trade routes from, 3-4. 

Christchurch priory, Hants, eflfect 
of mortality on, 214. 

Christian charity destroyed by 
plague, 15, 22, 44> 4S» 50» 53. 7^, 

Church, effects of plague on the, 
xxii, 238 seqq ; benefits to, firom 
middle classes, xxiii. 

Churches left without services, 238- 


Chus or Koos, trade routes through, 


Cities, depopulation of, 187. 

Clement VI, pope, 51. 

Clergy, reason for oedculating mor- 
tality of, 86; poor pay of, 238- 
239; proportion to lay people, 
237; ignorance of some at this 
time, 241; secular and regular. 

proportion of, 244-245 ; mortali^ 
amongst, 88-89, ^S^* dearth of, 
177, 200, 238, 248; regubuioB 
of fees of, 121; demand faigfacr 
stipends, 239. 

Clerics not in sacred orders 9^ 
pointed to benefices, 239. 

Clevedon, 97. 

Clistel, the lord of, 136. 

Cloford, 97. 

Qopton, Thomas de, 137. 

Qyn, friar John, account of plague 
in Ireland, 14a 

Co, John de, chancellor <rf Ely 
diocese, 155. 

Colchester, numbers of wills at, 
204; abbot of, dies, 204. 

Colington, Great, 166. 

Colington, Little, 166. 

CoU^^te establishment rendered 
necessary, 246. 

Colmar, 75. 

Cologne, 75. 

Combe Kasmes, 91. 

Commerce, routes of eastern, in four- 
teenth century, 3. 

Compostella, account of a pilgrim 
to, 67-6S. 

Compton, 97. 

Confession to laymen, people ex- 
horted to make, 93. 

Constance, 73. 

Constantinople, position in regard to 
Crimean trade, 11; plague at, 18. 

Contagion, special nature of, 41,45, 
46, 50-51. 

Conventional forms of middle ages, 

Conversation with infected fatal, 48, 

Corbet, John, priest of Winchester, 

Corey, John, establishes a cemetery 

in London, 108. 



Cork, 14a 

Coniard Parva, manor of, 150. 

Cornwall, evidence of Duchy ac- 
counts, 200-201 ; date of plague 
in the county of, 92. 

Cornwall, Mr., introduces English 
in schools, 234. 

Corsica, 06. 

Country, desolation of, 188 seqq. 

Court rolls, information contained 
in, 151, 193. 

Coventry, 146. 

Covino, Simon de, poem on the 
plague, 40. 

Crecy, battle of, xix. 

Creighton, Dr., his work on epi- 
demics in Britain, xxi. 

Crimea, Italian trading cities in, 4, 5. 

Crokham manor, 117. 

Crops, prolific nature of, at time of 
plague, 163. 

Crosby, 180. 

Croxton abbey, 164. 

Cumberland, 183. 

Cunningham, Dr., on the population 
of England, 226 ; on effect of the 
plague, 251. 

Curates, technical meaning of name, 

93 «^'. 
Cyprus, 2. 

Dale abbey, 171. 

Dalkey, ly^note, 

Dallyng, Philip, sacrist of Ely, 155. 

Dalmatia, 68. 

Dartmoor, 200. 

Deacons, faculties given to, for 

administering H. Eucharist, 95. 
Death of those attacked by disease 

considered certain, 44, 49-5a 
Decameron, description of the plague 

in the, 18, 23-27. 
Delaprey abbey, 160. 
De* Mussi, 5, 18. 

Dene, Roger, priest of Winchester, 

Dene, Sir Thomas, deaths in the 
family of, 12a 

Dene, William, monk of Rochester, 
his description of the plague, 120 
seqq.^ 228; account of the labour 
difficulties by, 231. 

Denis, St., account ot plague In 
chronicle of, 53 ; mortality at, 54. 

Denmark, 79. 

Denny, East and West, 204. 

Denton, Richard de, 183-184. 

Derby, death of priests in county, 
171; institutions in, 171; Domi- 
nicans of, 171. 

Dereford, John de, Mayor of Oxford, 

Derley abbey, notes in the chartulary 
of, 171. 

Desolation of country after the 
plague, xi, 58, 65, 77-78, 79, 122, 
133-I34» 143-144. 169. 181, 183, 
188 seqq. 

Devon, date of plague in county, 
92; mortality in, 102-103. 

Devotions, new character of popular, 

Dice converted into *' beads," 6a 

Dissentis abbey, 72. 

Ditchford priory, 145. 

Doctors, consulted by French king, 
56; at Venice) 35; at Avignon, 
44; flight of many, 49-50. 

Dodinton manor, 167. 

Dominicans, /ailing oflf in numbers 
of, 213. 

Doncaster, deanery of, institutions 
in, 176, 180-181. 

Dorchester, 91. . 

Dorsetshire, first appearance of 
plague in, 82-83, 90'9I > institu- 
tions of clergy in, 91 ; deaths of 
clergy, 188. 



Doalton, 97. 

Dnkelow, lordship of, 172. 

Drogheda, 139; convent of Minor- 
ites at, 139. 

Drontheim, archbishop and canons 
of, die, 77; bishops of province 
of, die, 77-78. 

Dnblin, 139; state of city alter 

. plague, 140-141; convent of Min- 
orites in, 139. 

Dnchy of Lancaster accounts, 300. 

Dugdale's Warwickshire^ institu- 
tions from, 146 and n^e, 

Dunstable, John de, prior of Gov- j 
entry, 146. I 

Dunwich, 153. 

East, the, plague originates in, i ; 
lines of commerce with, 3, 4, 5. 

Eaststoke, in Haylii^ Island, 217. 

Eckington, 171. 

Ederos, or Ivychurch, 189. 

Education, seriously affected by 
plague, xxii; condition of Univer- 
sities after, 243-244. 

Edward III, his great renown at the 
time of plague, xix. 1 

Edyndon, Bishop of Winchester, | 
123 ; his letter on the plague, 124; 
his letter on cemeteries at Win- 
chester, 128-129; bene&ctions to 
St. Mary's, Winchester, 211; his 
btnefiictions to Romaey, 212; 'his 
inquiry into the state of St. 
Swithun's, 214; his inquiry into 
the state of Christchuich, Hants, 
214; his letter about Shirebome 
priory, 215; his admonition to 
priests about residence, 215. 

Elsyng, Robert, 108. 

Ely, diocese of, 1 53 ; institutions in, 
1 54- 1 55 ; arrangement for govern- 
ment of, 152 ; proportion of bene- 
ficed and non-beneficed in, 156; 

falling off of ordinations, 242 
oath demanded from candidate 
for ordeis, 240; cathedral priory 
of, 155 ; tax on Dunwich grantee 
to the priory, 153. 

Elyot, ^aiiam, 216. 

Engelberg, 73; nunnery at, terribk 
mortality at, 73. 

England, date of arrival of plagni 
m, 81, 84. 

English, introduction of, into schoob 

Episcopal registers, value of, 86 

kind of evidence to be found in 

Eccheator's returns as to death o 

landowners, 115. 
Esse, Richard de. Abbot of Tavis 

tock, IQ4. 
Essex, benefices in, 203; Inq. p.m 

in, 203. 
Etsch, valley of the, 7a 
Eulogium Historiarum, the, 82. 
Europe, lines of Eastern trade with 


Evercreccn, 97* 

Exe, villages on the, 102. 

Exeter, diocese of, date of plagu< 
in, 92, 100; episcopal registers 
testimony of, loi ; institntioos of 
100, 102, 199; city of, St. Nidiolas 

Families swept away by league, 74 

172, 196. 
Fanning, change in the system of 

Farms, small, in use before thi 

plague, 233. 
Feodosia* S., otherwise Cafia, 5 anc 

Ferriby priory, 178. 
Fifteenth century, the, a period o 

reconstruction, 254. 



Fishy scarcity of, 228; increased 

price of, 228; supposed spread of 

epidemic through, 48. 
Fishing boats convey infection, I02. 
FitzEustace, Thomas, Inq. p.m. on, 

FitzRalph, archbishop of Armagh, 

on decrease of Oxford students, 


FitzWUliam, John, i8a 

Flanders, 58. 

Fleurchamps abbey, 76. 

Flight of people before plague, 

Florence, 18, 23-28. 

Food, spread of infection through, 
48; deamess of, 163. 

Fordingbridge, 131. 

Foswert, 76. 

Foucarmont abbey, 53. 

Fourteenth century, common view 
as to» xix. 

Fowey, the estuary of, 102. 

France, S. Luce on population of, 
63; condition of runl, in four- 
teenth century, 63-64. 

Franciscans, Wadding on effect of 
plague on, 251. 

Frankfort, 75. 

FreemAn, professor, on real great- 
ness of Middle Ages, 252. 

Fremington, 102. 

Freshford, 97. 

Friars of Piacenza, deaths amongst, 
22; in Provence, mortality 
amongst, 51 : mortality of, 51 ; 
of Winchester diocese, falling off 
in numbers, 212; of Our Lady, 
Norwich, 150. 

Frodsham manor, 169. 

Frome, 98. 

Funerals, regulations for, 31-32. 
Furniture of French houses, 64. 
Fyfhide, William de, 129 and n^e. 

Gall, St., abbey of, 80. 

Gallarete, 71. 

Garstang, 182. 

Garter, foundation of the Order of 
the, XX. 

Gascoigne, Thomas, on decrease of 
Oxford students, 147 and note. 

Gascony, 53, 55. 

Gayton, near Towcester, 224. 

Gaza, 2. 

Geneva, Lake of, 72. 

Genoa, merchants of, report begin- 
ning of plague, i; ships carry 
plague to, 14 ; date of plague at, 
ao-2i; ships from, carry plague 
to Marseilles, 39 ; settlements in 
Crimea of merchants belonging 
to, 4-5- 

Gerard Otho, archbishop of Cata- 
nia, 17. 

Gemeys, Joan, abbess of Romsey, 

Gesta Abbatum, the, 112. 

Gibraltar, death of Alfonso XI at, 

Gillingham, Dorset, court rolls of, 


Giigenti, 17. 

Glass, first use of, 63; painted, 
influence of plague on manufac- 
ture of, 236. 

Glastonbury, decrease in number of 
monks, 98, 25a 

Gloucester, county of, benefices in, 
219; city of, stops communica- 
tion with Bristol, 106. 

Godstowe, prioress of, 146. 

Goods of deceased tenants seized by 
the lord of the manor, 224. 

Grandisson, bishop, loi, 104, 20a 

Green, J. R., his history, xx; his 
estimate of church influence, 

Gresley, prior of, 171. 



Griiutead, East, near Salisbury, 

Grisant, William, doctor at Mar- 
seilles, 4a 

Gaemsey, 81. 

Guilds, rise of, zxiv. 

Hagham priory, 184. 

Hallmote courts, 185. 

Haltemprice priory, 178. 

Hame, manor of^ 219. 

Hampole, Richard RoUe of, xxiii. 

Hampshire, date of plague in, 130; 
institutions of clergy in, 208-209; 
Inq. p. m. in, 218. 

Hampton, John de, 129. 

Hardington, 97. 

Hartland abbey, X03. 

Hartlebury, manor of the Bishop of 
Worcester, 144. 

Harvests unreaped for lack of la-- 
bour, 198k 219-220, 228. 

Hastings, Laurence de, Earl of 
Pembroke, 137. 

Hastings, royal presentation to 
church in, 208. 

Hastings, William de, Inq. p. m. 
on, 218. 

Hayling Island, 131; impoverish- 
ment of, 217 ; priory, impoverish- 
ment of, 217. 

Hecker, his account of commence- 
ment of the plague, 2. 

Hedges, origin of, 233. 

Heiligen Kreuz abb^, 75. 

Helston, 20t. 

Hereford, disease in, 165; institu- 
tions of clergy in, 166; fallii^ 
off in numbers ordained, 242. 

Heriots, increase in numbers o( 

Herrings, increase in price of, 228. 

Hertfordshire, date of plague in. 

113; institutions of clergy in, 
205; manors of, state of, 114. 

Heveringland priory, 150. 

Hentall, Leticia, abbess of Polks- 
worth, 146. 

Hickling priory, 150. 

Hinton Bluet, two masses on Sun- 
days allowed at, 240. 

Hinton Charterhouse, difficulties on 
death of tenante at, 197-199. 

Holcombe, Somerset, 97. 

Holdemess, deanery of, 17S. 

Holland, 76. 

Holland, town of, 57. 

Holland, Sir Thomas, 160. 

Holy Cross, Bristol, 99. 

Holy Name, rise of devotion to the, 

Hong-Kong, plague in, %ni. 

Horsleigh priory, 22a 

Horsley, 171. 

Houghton, 185. 

House, style of French country, 

Hull, 180-181. 
Hume, on the plague, xx. 
Husee, Sir Henry, Inq. p.m. on, 

Hyde abbey, 211. 

Iceland, the bishops of, all die, 77 
and mote. 

Incumbents, ordination of, alter 
appointment, 239. 

India, bubonic plague in, v seqq. 

Indulgences granted at time of 
plague, 127. 

Infection, terrible nature of, 20*21, 
31. 56-57. 70-71, 106. 

Inquisitions post mortem, value of, 

Institutions of clergy, valuable evi- 
dence of, 87-88. 

Ireland, 138 seqq. 



Iron, increased price of, 228. 
Islip, Simon, Archbishop of Can- 

terbury, his enthionisation, 123; 

letter on stipends of clergy, 247. 
Istria, 69. 
Ivychurch priory, 131, 189. 

Jersey, 81. 

Jervaulx abbey, 177. 

Jessopp, Dr., his account of the 

plague in East Anglia, ii, 149, 

Jews, mortality amongst, 43. 
Joan of Burgundy dies, 54. 
Joan, daughter of Edward III, dies, 

Joan, Queen of Navarre, dies, 54. 
John XXI, report as to Eastern 

commerce to, 3. 

Kent, Margaret, Countess of, 159. 

Keynsham abbey, 97. 

Kidwelly priory, 138. 

Kilkenny, 139-140. 

Kilkhampton, John de, prior of 
Bodwin, 104. 

Kilmersdon, 97. 

King Edward, his compassion sel- 
dom manifested, 216 ; on clerical 
education, 244. . 

Kingsmead, prioress of, 171. | 

Knighton, chronicle by, 84 ; his 1 
account of plague at Bristol, 98; . 
ditto in Leicestershire, 162; on ' 
the plague amongst the Scots, ! 
x86; his description of labour 
difficulties, 230; on the scarcity 
of priests, 238. 

Knightsbridge, slaughter place for 
London at, 1 10. 

Koos, or Chus, a trade station on 
the Nile, 4. 

Kurds, the, attacked by the plague, 2. 

Labour, increased cost of, 2I9-220, 

Labourers, difficulty of obtaining, 
57, 106-107, 122, 163, 197-199. 
208, 219; trouble with, 65; feel 
their power, xxii, 228 ; get higher 
wages in spite of legislation, 230- 

Lagerbring, on plague in Norway, 


Lamech, earthquake at, 2. 

Lancashire, 180. 

Land, depreciation of, 159, 178, 
218, 219, 223, 228 ; rents of, re- 
duced, 123, 167-168, 169, 190 
segf.} cessation of services on, 
172-173; a third part of, unculti- 
vated, 231; change of, to large 
tenures, 233. 

Landowners, difficulties of, 227- 
228 ; mediaeval meaning of, 234. 

Langton, 91. 

Language, effect of plague on, 234. 

Languedoc, 42. 

I^Ai^pvith, 171. 

Lanthony priory, 22a 

Laon, abbey of St. John at, 65. 

Launceston, appointment of a reli- 
gious of, as prior of Bodmin, 

Laura de Noves, death of, 32-33, 
43; announcement of death of, 
to Petrarch, 33. 

Law Courts suspended, 174. 

Law suits settled by deaths of par- 
ties, 136, 196. 

Lay people and clergy, proportion 
of, 237. 

Ledbury, large ordination at, 242. 

Leicester, city of, 162. 

Leicester, county of, institutions of 
clergy in, 163-164. 

Lesnes monastery, poverty of, 123. 

Le Strange, John, 167, 190. 



Lewes priory, deaths at, 134. 
Liege, labour diflBculties at, 65. 
Lincoln, county of, Escheators' ac 

counts for, 174. 
Lincoln, diocese of, indulgences for, 

162, 173; institutions of deigy 

in, 205. 
Lincoln, Richard de, 174. 
Lipton, Nicholas de, abbot, 223. 
Lisle, Thomas de. Bishop of Ely, 

Livings left vacant, i99-2oa 
Lollards, supposed religious revival 

due to, xxiii. 
London, date of plague in, 107, 1 1 1, 
136; new churchyards in, 107- 
108; number of dead in, 109- 
I ID, 203 ; insanitary condition of, 
I to; proportion of secular to re- 
gular clergy ordained in, 247 

Longford, 171, 204. 

Louth Park, 173. 

Lucaris, Dominic de. Archbishop 

of Spalatro, 69. 
Luce, M. Simeon, on condition of 

French rural life, ix, 63. 
Lucerne, 72. 
Luda, Walter de, abbot of Louth 

Park, 174. 
Luffield pric»y, i6a 
Lnlworth, East, 91. 
Lyda, trade route with, 3. 
Lycotin, Matilda, 133. 
Lydford manor, 20a 
Lyle, Henry de, prior of Horsleigh, 

L3mot,John, 158. 
Lynsted, Adam de, sacrist of Ely, 


Magnus II, King of Sweden, 78. 
Mahabar, probably Mahe, on Mala- 
bar coast, 4. 

Majorca, 66. 

Maldon manor, 203. 

Male population, demands upoo 

the, 243. 
Mailing abbey, 120, 123. 
Malvern, Great, 142. 
Manny, Sir Walter, 109, 137. 
Manors, example of deaths of teo- 

anUon, 150-151, 157, 161, 162, 

164, 194, 195, 196, 197. 
Marino, Sanudo, his account of 

ancient trade routes, 3. 
Marseilles, 40; remains a dty of 

the dead, 46. 
Marton priory, 178. 
Mautmvers, John, governor of 

Channel Islands, 81. 
Meals, account of, in France, 64. 
Meath, bishop of, I'finoie. 
Meaux abbey, 178; decay of, 179. 
Medical science powerless to deal 

with epidemic, 12, 41, 50, 72, 
Mediterranean ports, infectios 

brought from, i. 
Melcombe Regis, plague in Eng- 
land first starts from, 82. 
Mengham, Hayling Island, 217. 
Mentmore, Michael, abbot of Si. 

Albans, 112. 
Merdenchor, quarter of Toumay, 


Mesopotamia, 2 ; traderoute through , 

Messina, 1$. 
Middle Ages, material difficulties 

in, 252. 
Middle classes, prohision of, xix. 
Milan, building of the cathedral of, 

253-254 and nete. 
Minster priory, Cornwall, 103. 
Momo, 71* 
Monasteries, special mortality in, 

76, 209; impoverishment of, 197- 

198; depopulation of, 249-250. 



Monkbretton priory, 178. 

Monrieux, 33. 

Montgomery, Sir John, 136. 

Montpellier, 40. 

Morals, effect of scourge on, xxii, 
29> 37» 55; attempt to enforce 
better, 6a 

Mortality, extent of, in Europe, 58; 
probable estimate of, in England, 
225 seqq. ; of English clergy, as 
evidenced by Patent rolls, 88; 
greater in confined places, 61. 

Morton, 224. 

Mosquitoes, cause of plague, viii. 

Muchelney abbey, 98. 

Mu^xngton, 171. 

Muhldorf, 70. 

Muisis, Gilles Le, abbot of Tour- 
nay, 58, 68. 

Miirz, the valley of the, 70. 

Mussi, De', his account of the 
plague in Italy, 18, 19. 
^ Mustard, nearly the only mediaeval 
condiment, 64. 

Nangis, William of, his account of 
J. the plague, 54. 

Narbonne, 42. 

Navarre, Queen of, dies, 54. 
^ Netherton, 169. 

Neuberg, 70, 74. 
.^ Newcastle, 185. 

Newenham abbey, 103. 

Norfolk and Suffolk, institution of 
^ clergy in, 149; manors of, deaths 

in, 150-151. 
^ Normandy, 53, 57. 
^j Northam, 102. 

Northamptonshire, institutions of 
clergy in, 159; manors of, i6i. 

North Sea, ships drifting on the, 3. 
^, Northumberland, 185. 
'^ Northwich, 17a 
L. Northwood, Hayling Island, 217. 

Norway, 76-77. 

Norwich, dty of, St. Martin's-in- 
the-Fields, 150; the friars of Our 
Lady in, ibid.; deaths in, 151- 
152 ; supposed population of, ibid. 

Norwich, diocese of, deaths of re- 
ligious superiors in, 149-150; in- 
stitutions of clergy in, 149; or- 
dinations of youths in, 238. 

Nottinghamshire, deaths of bene- 
ficed clergy in, 173. 

Noves, Laura de, death of, 43. 

Nurses, impossibility of finding, 46, 
SO-5i» S3> 71-72; almost certain 
death of, 56. 

Oath, a kind of missionary, im- 
posed at Ely, 240. 

Observance of monasteries, plague 
fiatal to, 250-251. 

Orders, dearth of candidates for, 
177; the usual intervals between, 
dispensed with, 238; conferred 
on a married man, 240 ; conferred 
on youths, 238. 

Ordinations, effect of plague upon 
the, 211, 213, 241-242. 

Ordinations, faculty to archbishop 
of York for extra, 177, 

Orvieto, 30. 

Ospring manor, 120. 

Otho, Gerard, archbishop of Catania, 

Oxford City, 146-147; mayors die, 
147-148; plague pits in, 148. 

Oxfordshire, date of pestilence in, 

Oxford, St. Frideswide, 146, 222. 

Oxford University, students de- 
crease through plague, 147, 244. 

Padova, Andrea di, a doctor at 

Venice, 35. 
Padua, 30, 70. 



Painted glass, influence of plague on 
mamifiictQre, 256. 

P«r». 53» 54. 

Parishes, depopulation of, 121-122, 
166; impoverishment of, 158. 

Parliament, prorogation of, 107. 

Parma, 32-34. 

Pastoral clergy, necessity for pro- 
viding, 248. 

Patent rolls, evidence of the mor- 
tality upon the, 88. 

Pater noster, meaning of instruc- 
tions upon the, 241 n^ie, 

Pembroke, county of, 137. 

Pentrich, 171. ? 

People, sympathy of clergy with, 
248 ; become masters of the labour 
situation, 232. 

Pepys, Samuel, his description of 
Bristol, 99. 

Pessimism of present day, 252. 

Pestilence, the great, date of com- 
mencement, I ; its arrival in Eng- 
land, 83-84; character of, 8, 12- 
14. 41. 56f 68-69, 70-71; special 
type of, 8, 4i> SOi 136, 139; 
rapidity of infection of, 69, 84-85, 
139; not affected by climate, 41. 

Petrarch, his account of the plague 
at Parma, 32-34. 

Pftfers, 72. 

Philip of Valois, Queen of, dies, 54. 

Philip VI consults doctors upon the 
epidemic, 56. 

Piacenza, 5, 21-22. 

Pilton priory, 103. 

Pinchbeck, Emma de, prioress of 
Worthorp, i6a 

Pisa, 29; effect of plague on morals 

at, 37. 
Platiensis, Michael, his account of 

the plague in Sicily, 15 note. 
Poisoners suspected at Avignon, 48. 
Poitou, 53. 


PoUesworth abbey, 146. 

Poole, 92. 

Poor, unhealthy condition of livii^ 
147 ; very great mortality amongst 
42, 47* 

Population in 14th centniy, 62; 
statistics of, 85-86; esdmale of, 
in England, 225 nqq.i effect oq 
the, 83, 167; proportion carried 
off, 225; detached from the sofl 
by the plague, 234. 

Portesham, 91. 

Portishead, 97. 

Portland, 83. 

Portsmouth, 131, 216. 

Poverty of priests because of the 
deaths of their people, 158. 

Powick, 142. 

Pratis, John de, bbhop of Toumay, 

Preston, 182. 

Priests, afraid of infection, 1 2 1 - 1 22, 
126; specially liable to infect, 20, 
38, 41, 61, 77, 93, 139; dearth 
of, 93, 121, 200, 237; devotiofi 
of, 61, lOI. 

Priests* deaths imply deaths of many 
people, 192. 

Priests, poverty of, through the 
plague, 121-122, 158, 200. 

Processions, (wders for, 81, 127. 

Provence, 46, 51. 

Provisions, cheap, during the pesti- 
lence, 106. 

Pmiex chtopis^ viii. 

Punjab, pbigue in, vi. 

Ragusa, 68. 

Raleghe, Roger de. Abbot of Hart- 

land, 103. 
Ramsey abbey, 159. 
Rats, cause of plague, vii. 
Realism, need of corrective for, 253. 



Roisters* Episcopal, importance of 

Regular clergy, numbers of the, 344- 
245; position in the Church of, 
245 ; ordinations of, 245. 

Religion, paralysis of, after the 
epidemic, xxii ; history of, in later 
times, to be understood in light 
of this plague, xxv. 

Religious, falling off in ordinations 
of, 21 1 -212. 

Religious feeling and practice, im- 
portant change in, xxii 

Religious foundations, change in 
type of, 246. 

Religious houses, special mortality 
in, 76, 164, 178, 189; effect of 
plague on numbers of, 209; im- 
poverishment of, 136, 210 seqq. 

Rent, instance of remission of, 170. 

Rhine valley, 72, 75. 

Rhone valley, 42. 

Rich, the, victims of the plague at 
Toumay, 61; in Hungary, 72. 

Rievaulx abbey, 178. 

Rimini, 31. 

Rivarolo, 20. 

Roche abbey, 178. 

Rochester, cathedral priory of, 123. 

Rochester, diocese of, 120 seqq,\ 
deaths in episcopal palace of, 
120; the bishop's mandate for i 
prayers, 121 ; state of episcopal | 
manors, 122. j 

Rogers, Professor Thorold, on 
population, 226. 

Romsey abbey, 212; election of 
abbess to, 212; benefactions of 
Bishop Edyndon to, 212. 

Roskild, the bishopric of, state of 
the manors of, 79. 

Round numbers, misleading nature 
of, 62, 182. 

Ruswyl, 72. 
Rutland, 161. 
Rye, 133- 

Sacrament, the Blessed, increase of 

devotion to, xxiv. 
Sacraments, difficulty in obtaining 

the, 38. 
Sadington, 164. 
St. Albans, decrease in number of 

monks at, 249; date of plague 

at, 112; death of a monk of, 

at Canterbury, 1 19 ; peculiars of, 

St Brice, parish of, S9* 
St. Gall, abbey of, 71. 
St. Gothard, pass of, 71. 
St. Ives, John of, camerarius of 

Ely, 155. 
St. Piat, parish of, Toumay, 59. 
St. Trond, difficulties with tenants 

at, 65. 
St. Valery, abbey of, Picardy, 

Salisbury, diocese of, institutions of 

dei^ in, 89; deaths m, 188. 
Salt, increased price of, 228. 
Salvatierra, 68. 

Sandown, hospital of, 133, 214. 
Sandwich, cemetery at, 119. 
Santiago, 58, 68. 
Sanndo, Marino, his report on lines 

of commerce, 3. 
Saragossa, 67. 
Sardinia, 66. 
Sdacca, 17. 

Scotch invaders attacked, 186. 
Sebenico, 69. 

Secular and regular cleigy, propor- 
tion of, 244; ordination of, in 

London, 247 n^ie, 
Selkirk forest, 186. 
Selwood forest, 198. 
Selwood, Richard de, 147. 



Seyer, his history of Bristol, 99. 

Shftltesbury, 91. 

Shelford priory, 178. 

Shepey, Jordan, Mayor of Coventry, 

Sherebome abbey, 138. 
Ships without crews on the high 

seas, 2-3, 77. 
Shirebome priory, 215. 
Shrewsbury, institutions of clergy 

in, 166. 
Shrewsbury, Ralph of, and bishop 

of Bath and Wells, 81 ; letter of, 

on the plague, 93-9S* 
Shropshire, 166-167. 
Sicily, 14. 
Sick left without attendants, 44-46, 

Siena, 30; population of, yincte; 

butlduig of cathedral of, sus- 
pended, 30 mtf, 253. 
Skelton, William, prior of Luffield, 

Sladen, manor of, 116. 
Sleeping sickness, viii. 
Smithfield, East, cemetery at, 107. 
Snetterton, manor o( 151. 
Social resulu of phigue, 226-227, 

Somerset, date of plague in the 

county of, 92, 93,95; institutions 

of clergy in, 96, 192; dearth of 

clergy in, 96. 
Southampton, 131, 162. 
Southwood, 217. 
Spiun, 55, 66 si^f. 
Spalatro, 68. 
Spettisbury, 9a 
Spiritual writers, rise of an English 

school of, xxiiL 
Spoils of France, English people 

rich with, xix. 
Sprouston, Robert de, 156. 
Staffordshire, 164* 

Stamford, St. Michaers, united 10 

Worthorp, 161. 
Stipends of clergy, 247. 
Stockton, near Warminster, 194. 
Stoke-Clare, college of, 246. 
Stoke, Hayling Island, 217. 
Stowe's account of London ceme- 

teiies, 108-109. 
Strange, John le, 167, 168 ; Fulk, 

$M. ; Humphrey, idid. 
Strikes against old rents, 231. 
Students, decrease in numbers of, 

Styria, 70, 74- 
Suffolk, institutions of clergy in, 


Surrey, date of plague in, ijo; in- 
stitutions in, 209; depredation of 
land in, 218. 

Sussex, 133; benefices in, 208; 
royal presentations to livings in, 

Sweden, letter of the king of, on 
the phigue, 78 ; the pestilence in, 

Switxerland, 72. 
Syria, 2; trade routes through, 3. 

Talkeley priory, Essex, 205. 

TaUey abbey, 138. 

Tamworth, land near, 164. 

Tana, now Asov, 6 nof<. 

Tartary, 2. 

Tavistock abbey, 103-104. 

Taxes, difficulty in raising, 239. 

Tenants, deaths of manorial, 170, 
172, 174, 179, 183, 218; dearth 
of, 223 ; refiisal to pay old rents 
by, 231; small holdings of, before 
epidemic, 233. 

That-Molyngis, Ireland, pilgrimage 
to, 138. 

Thurgarton priory, 178. 

Tideswell, church of, 235. 



Tigris, trade route along, 3. 

Tints^el, 201. 

Tortona, 71. 

Toulouse, 46, 52. 

Toumay, 58 seqq.^ 76; bishop of, 

59; abbey of St. Martin's at, 

Towcester, 224. 
Towns, decay of, 180-181, 229. 
Trade routes, the chief eastern, 3-4. 
Trades unions, rise of, 232. 
Trapani, 17. 

Trebizond, trade with, 3. 
Trent, 70. 
Trevisa, his account of introduction 

of English into schools, 234. 
Trigg, deanery of, 201. 
Trileck, Bishop of Hereford, 164; 

ordinations by, 242. 
Trivet, his chronicle continued, 83. 
Tumby, Stephen de, and Mary, his 

wife, 191. 
Tura, Agniolo de, his account of the 

plague, 3a 
Twerton, 97. 
Tynemouth, account by a monk of, 

Tynham, 91. 
Tyrolese Alps, 7a 

Valencia, 67. 

Valery, St., abbey of, 205. 

Varese, 71. 

Venice, ships from Crimea, trade 
with, 14-15; plagiie at, 20, 31- 
32; deaths at, 49; doctors at, 35, 

Verona, 74. 

Vienna, 74. 

Villani, Giovanni, dies of the plague, 

Villani, Matteo, on origin of the 
plague, 2; on nature of the 
plague, 9; his account of it, 28. 

Villeinage, extinction of, 232. 
Vocations to priesthood £all off, 

Wadding on the effects of the 

plague, 251. 
Wages, attempt to regulate, 228; 
real reason for the measure, 229* 
230; are doubled, 229. 
Wakebridge, Sir William, 472. 
Wales, 137; small number of reli- 
gious in monasteries of, 137-138. 

Walter, abbot of Newenham, 103. 

Wandsworth, 131. 

Wappenbury, lands in, 221. 

Wardiam, 91 ; alien priory at, 91. 

Waring, John de, 133. 

Warminster, 194. 

Warmwell, 91. 

Warwickshire, institutions of clergy 
in, 145-146, 221; Inq. p.m. in, 
221 ; date of plague in, 146. 

Weedon, 224. 

Welbeck abbey, 178. 

Wells, 98. 

West Chickerell, 91. 

West Gotland, 77. 

Westerham, impropriation of, to 
Canterbury, 208. 

Westminster, 107; hospital of St. 
James*sat, 112. 

Westminster abbey, 112. 

Westmoreland, 183. 

Weston, Hayling Island, 217. 

Weston-super-Mare, 97, 224. 

Weston, William, 112. 

Weymouth, 83, 91. 

Whaddon, 134. 

Whitchurch manor, 168, 190, 222. 

Whitland abbey, 138. 

Wight, Isle of, 131 ; institutions of 
clergy in, 216. 

Wilington, Henry de, 191. 

Wilington, 171. 



William of Woroester, note as to 
Yannoath, 153; note as to Bod- 
min, 104. 

Wills in court of Hustings, London. 

Wilmaoott, Inq. p. m. as to, a2i. 

Wiltshiie, institutions of daigjr in, 
189; Inq. p. m. in, 190; manors 
of, 194. 

Winchcombe abbey, 219. 

Winchelsea, 133. 

Winchester city, difficolties in col- 
lecting taxes, 218; processions 
through, 125; riot in, about 
burial places, 127. 

Winchester, diocese of, 123 seqq.i 
institutions of clergy in, 129-130; 
deaths of religious superiors of, 
132-133; fidling off in numbers 
ordained, 213, 241; decay of 
churches in, 215, proportion of 
beneficed to non*beneficed detgy 
ordained in, 236; clerics not in 
sacred orders ordained to bene- 
fices, 239. 

Winchester, St. Mary*s nunnery, 21 1. 

Winchester, St Swithun's, 129; 
death of prior, 209; effect of 
deaths in, 209; impoverishment 
of, 209, 213. 

V^nnow, St, 102. 

Wmterboume, St Nicholas, 9^-^ 

Winterboumes, the, 89. 

Wisby, Franciscan convent in, 78. 

Wisby, the cathedral of, slabs in, 78. 

Witham Charterhouse, difficulties 
of, 197-198- 

Wivelscombe, the bishop of Bath 
and Wells at, 96. 

Woods not to be sold, 191. 

Wool, making of doth from, at 
Hinton Charterhouse, 199. 

Woroester, letter of bishop ci^ 142; 
state of his manors after, 143; 
I cemetery in, 142; St Oswald's 
in, 143; state of the county of, 
! 143 ; date of plague in, 141 ; in- 
stitutions of dergyth, 141. 

Workmen, comlnnalions of, 231. 

Worthorp prioiy, i6a 

Wydifie, fisulure of social theories 
of, 252. 

Wydiffite authors, tracts wrongly 
attributed to, xziii. 

Wykdsam, William of, his exhorta- 
tions to St Swithin's, Winches- 
ter, 210; his schools, 244 nole\ 
his entry into ecdesiastical state 
caused by plague, 249. 

Wyncote, John, deaths in fiunily of, 

Yarmouth, population of, 153 naie\ 
mortality in, 151-152; petition to 
Heniy VII from, 152; church 
building stopped, 153; St Ni- 
cholas' churdi, 235. 

York, institutions of dergy in the 
diocese, 176; provision against 
deaths of canons, 177 ; deprecia- 
tion of land in the county of, 
179; letter of Archbishop Zouche, 
175; indulgences from the Pope 
for, 176. 

Zouche, archbishop of York, 175. 
Zurich, 73. 


7 I O Q 9 /, 

3 2044 026 010 108 


tiin n '?'"*WH 

|MAD 1 R 7nni 

OEMCO. INC. 38-2831